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Its winter!!!! :(

Well, not officially for about a month, but in Canada it has definately arrived!  From east to west (even as far as Victoria, BC, the country is blanketed in snow and cold.  Last winter I was pretty lucky and avoided most of the nasty white stuff, but that is certainly not the case so far this year!  Already I have driven through a major snowfall in Northwest Ontario, and into the cold and snow of the Prairies.  The drive through Ontario was nasty to say the least.  It was probably the worst weather and road conditions that I have experienced so far and it really took a lot of skill to keep this monster on the road!

I left Toronto on Friday afternoon after an interesting drive through DOWNTOWN Toronto!!!  I called the company where I was picking up and got directions.  The person on the phone, who seemed to know what he was doing, gave me directions and I followed them to a “T”!  BIG MISTAKE!  I came around a curve on the road and ahead of me was a train bridge marked at 3.9 Metres…now for those of you who didn’t read about my trip to Montreal, my truck is 4.1 Metres high!!!!!  This is NOT good!  I slowed to a crawl with traffic backing up behind me, and dumped the air from my suspension and proceeded at a snail’s pace, all the time watching the top of my trailer in my mirrors.  You couldn’t have slid a piece of paper between the top of my trailer and the bottom of the bridge, but I made it through, which is really lucky or else I would have had to back up through traffic!!!  The next problem occurred when I arrived at the street where I was to make a LEFT turn.  A very bold sign sign indicated “NO LEFT TURN”!!!!  I was less than a kilometre away from where I needed to be, and being unfamiliar with Toronto, I really didn’t want to go out of my way.  So as traffic cleared, I made an illegal (and successful) left turn!  I then arrived at my destination, only to find that it was on a very narrow street that I had to make a right turn onto.  I blocked both lanes of traffic on the street I was driving on, swung wide to the other side of the road, ran a red light, and backed a van about halfway down the street, so I could make my turn!  I then realized that I was facing the wrong direction if I wanted to back into a very tight loading dock, so a U-turn in a narrow receiving area was necessary!  I am not sure who built the loading docks in the Toronto area, but they certainly didn’t take 53 foot trailers into account.  I finally got backed into the dock after blocking the whole street for about 10 minutes and holding up transit buses in the process!  I went inside and bitched to the shipper about the location and the lousy and dangerous direction that I got!  Eventually I got loaded, got BETTER directions to get out of there and headed on my way to Saskatoon.

Not far out of Toronto, the snow began and by the time I arrived in North Bay, Ontario it was coming down pretty hard, although it was really wet and not sticking to the road at all.  I spent the night in North Bay.  In the morning, I awoke to a nice white scene and figured the fun was about to begin, but luckily not far out of North Bay, the snow cleared and I was able to make pretty good time.  There was snow in the ditches, but the road was clear.  That was all about to change, however.

I made it to Pass Lake, Ontario (about 40km from Thunder Bay) and hunkered down for the night.  That night it began to snow big time, and talking to others in the truckstop led me to believe that the storm was all the way to Winnipeg and points west.  In the morning, the ground was completely white and covered with about 4 to 5 inches of new fresh snow!  I got my game face on, and after sitting and pondering the weather for about half an hour, I decided to hit the road and very quickly fell in behind another truck going the same direction.  Not long after we started, we caught up to a snow plow on the road and our speed slowed to a crawl.  We couldn’t pass the plow, due to limited visibility and poor conditions, so we followed him for about 20 km doing approximately 40 to 50kph!  All the time, there were more and more trucks backing up behind us.  At one point, we reached a passing lane and the snowplow drove down the CENTRE of the road to prevent anyone from passing him.  This did not deter some of the cowboy truckers behind us though, who figured they would get where they were going faster if they passed a couple of trucks.  Needless to say, this did NOT go over well with the other truckers who were stuck in the line and there was LOTS of cursing on the CB radio!  They really didn’t accomplish anything anyway, because they were still stuck behind the plow!

Eventually the plow turned off and we again began to move at a decent, although greatly reduced speed through the snowy, icy roads.  This section of highway through Northern Ontario is treacherous in good weather, but with the added danger of snow and ice, it was a recipe for disaster and I have to say, that although I was never scared, I was certainly respectful of the road and conditions and drove accordingly.  I increased my following distance behind other vehicles and approached every downhill slope with extreme caution.  I always attempted to have at least one other truck in front of me to use as a speed gauge, but at one point I lost contact with everyone and was alone out there.  That was until someone pulled out of a side road behind me.  When I got to the first passing lane after this, I pulled over to allow him to pass and he pulled in behind me.  At the next passing lane there were two other trucks behind, so again I pulled over to allow them to pass.  The two new trucks did pass, but the other one stayed behind me, and was using ME as a speed gauge.  Made me feel pretty good that he liked the way that I was moving along.

The roads and weather remained crappy for the whole day.  Just outside of Kenora, Ontario there was a really nasty truck accident.  A semi had missed a downhill curve and jack-knifed into the ditch.  The front of the truck was against the side of the trailer and under water in the ditch.  Not sure how the driver fared, hopefully he is okay, but just proves that it only takes one mistake to cause a really big mess!  The accident caused everyone to slow down a bit for a while.  By this time, the only vehicles on the road were trucks and snowplows with very few passenger vehicles at all.  At least without many cars to contend with, the trucks could move along without having to worry about the cars also!

Eventually I got through Ontario and got to the divided highway of Manitoba, where the conditions improved a lot.  When I finally arrived in Winnipeg for the night, I was thoroughly exhausted and my hands were sore from holding the steering wheel!  But I felt really good on getting through that mess without incident!

Today I drove from Winnipeg to Saskatoon.  The roads are in better condition, although still slippery in places and I was really glad to finally park for the night in Saskatoon.  Tomorrow morning, early morning, I unload this load of donuts and then I have to take a break to reset my hours so that I can hit the road again.  Gonna be stuck in Saskatoon until Wednesday, so time to relax and enjoy a break.

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