• February 2011
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    37 states so far

Riding with a partner …sort of! :)

Or when winter hits down south!

Ok so on my last trip to Arizona, I had a ride along partner…my wife Judy joined me for the trip.  I had promised her a nice warm trip to Arizona in the middle of a cold Manitoba winter…boy did I get that one wrong!  I should have known that “murphy’s law” would strike, but for more details, read on.

The trip started out quite normally, a cold and snowy February day in southern Manitoba.  I headed over to grab my load of peat moss to take to Denver, all the time assuring Judy that once we hit southern South Dakota, the weather would begin to improve rapidly.  We got a late start out of Manitoba, and I decided to pull it over at a rest area in South Dakota at the end of the first day.  I hadn’t done as many miles as I wanted to, and I was really pressed for time, but fatigue started to kick in and I figured it was best to start refreshed early the next morning.

In the morning, we turned towards western South Dakota and then headed south on Highway 83 towards Nebraska.  I was still trying to convince Judy that the weather was going to improve, although by this time I was really beginning to doubt it myself, as the temperatures remained well below freezing.  That night we parked in a truckstop about 3 hours from my destination of Denver, CO.  The wind was howling and the temperature was COLD!!!!! I was still hoping for a drastic change, but really concerned.

The next morning I headed out for Denver and found my way to my destination, only to discover that not only was it still really cold, but that I had to back my truck around TWO corners to get to the loading dock.  This was an extremely tight location from a very narrow road with very little room to move around.  I eventually, after struggling a little, got into the dock and got unloaded.  This was Wednesday morning, and I was scheduled to reload in Nogales, AZ (approximately 800 miles away) on Friday, so it was time to keep rolling.

We  headed south through Denver and towards New Mexico.  I told Judy that the worst of the cold had to be done, and that it would begin to warm soon.  By the time I got to Albuquerque, NM, however, I knew differently!!!  When we parked for the night in Albuquerque, it was -18C and really cold, we got a message from back home that it was +4 in Winnipeg and RAINING!  So much for enjoying the weather down south!!!  The truck stop where we stayed for the night had frozen waterlines and no coffee due to the extreme cold weather.  My trailer needed to be washed out prior to reloading, but the truck wash was closed due to frozen water lines also.  Again I figured that things would improve!

The next day, we headed out of Albuquerque towards Arizona.  Along the way I decided to stop for breakfast at a small independent truck stop.  As soon as we walked inside, we knew this was not good.  The building had no heat, except for a roaring fireplace.  The owner was layered in sweaters and complaining about how cold it was.  His bathrooms were frozen up also, but he did have bottled water for coffee and was able to prepare food.  When we sat on the restaurant seats, it was like sitting on a block of ice, everything was so darn cold!  But we made the best of it and joked with an Australian couple who arrived shortly after we did.  Once back on the road, I figured a quick stop for a bathroom break at a rest area close by was in order, but unfortunately it was closed due to frozen waterlines.  The next one was also closed for the same reason, are you beginning to see a pattern here?????

The road was covered in fresh snow and ice, but the crews were out clearing.  In New Mexico they do not use sand on the roads, instead they use crushed volcanic ash which is pink and the side of my truck developed a nice shade of pink as we continued to drive.  Finally as we crossed the New Mexico/Arizona border, we left the snow and ice behind and unbelievably, by this time, the temperature finally rose above freezing!

Since I have issues with spending the night in Nogales, AZ, we decided to spend Thursday night in Tucson, AZ and head to Nogales in the morning.  The temperature remained above freezing overnight, and I was able to get the interior of my trailer washed out in preparation of loading.  About 5 minutes after leaving the truck stop in the morning and beginning to head to Nogales, my phone rang advising me that due to the cold weather, the tomatoes that I was supposed to pick up had not been picked and my load was now delayed until Monday, meaning I had to spend two days waiting!  So I turned around and headed back to the truckstop.

This did allow us to walk around the area and survey the damage caused by the cold.  Many of the cacti had a lot of damage and many broken parts lay on the ground.  I hope they recover, but I am sure they are just not used to this kind of cold.  The stopover also allowed us to watch the Superbowl in a truck stop surrounded by serious football fans.  We had some interesting discussions with some of them, and although I am not a big fan of NFL Football, I was still cheering for the Packers, in a crowd of Steelers fans!  We had some good fun there and met some great people.

On Monday I headed south to Nogales, AZ to grab my load of tomatoes to take back north.  By this time the temperature was up around 15C, still well below normal and not what I had planned for Judy’s trip, but this was out of my hands.  After loading, it was off to another truck stop to scale my load and take a quick bathroom break before heading north.  BUT as you may guess, the bathrooms were closed due to broken (previously frozen) waterlines!!!!

So north we went towards Glen Canyon, but first we had to get through Phoenix.  We made a fuel stop at Eloy, AZ and this is where I started my “Engine Cooking” experiment.  For a full report on engine cooking read:  https://paulcroft.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/engine-cooking/.

As we headed towards Phoenix, I let Judy know that this was a large city and would take a while to get through, but I did not expect the delay that we got.  As we entered the city, the Interstate signs began to warn of an accident and that the Interstate was closed.  Being unfamiliar with the city, I did not want to stray too far from my route, however, and so I continued along.  We encountered the clean up of a fairly minor accident, that did slow us down a bit, but I figured, “OK, that wasn’t too bad” and we kept on rolling.  Just a few miles down the highway though, we encountered another “slowdown” and this one was the “big one!!!!”  We went from rolling at highway speed to a dead stop in just a couple of hundred feet and then crawled along!  The CB Radio was full of wonderful comments and advise to take this detour or that detour.  I was considering trying to get out of the mess, when I heard one trucker call for help.  He had taken one of the “detours” and ended up in a major residential area with narrow streets and cars parked on both sides of the road and was lost.  At this point, I KNEW that I was going to stay on the Interstate and try to navigate through this mess!  From the chatter on the CB, I knew that I was about 4 miles from the epicentre of the trouble, but that 4 miles took me in excess of 2 hours to drive through!  By the time I reached the “incident” they were in the final stages of clean up, and we didn’t see anything at all, so I have really no idea what happened, although the rumour was that a semi, a number of cars, and a motorcycle were involved.

At this point, I was tired and stressed out to the max, and was also getting hungry.  The smell of the “engine cooking” experiment was starting to drift into the cab and my stomach was growling.  I found a nice rest area not too far along and decided that it was time to park for the night and get some food into us, and we would see the canyon the next day.

After a good nights sleep, we hit the road again.  Not too far from Flagstaff, AZ, where the climb into the mountains begins, we once again hit snow!  Seems that snow was really attracted to me on this trip!!!  Up and down the hills we traveled and at some points the visibility was really poor.  But we had to keep moving and make some miles towards our destination.  We got through Flagstaff and turned north towards the canyon.  The weather improved a little, but not completely, at least until we got into the main canyon section.  Judy was amazed at what we were seeing outside our window, as I was even though this was now my third trip through this area.  The colours of the rocks are indescribable as they are so varied and it is really overwhelming.  The huge climbs that the road takes are difficult in a fully loaded semi, as are the downhill runs, but as my experience grows along with my confidence, I really get to enjoy the views out the window.

At the bottom of the canyon is the city of Page, AZ where we stopped for a quick bite at the local Subway, and then it was across the Glen Canyon Dam and into Utah.  The trip from this point meanders through small towns and forests and then eventually into a pass that makes the major climb over the mountain range.  This pass is a great challenge with 25 MPH corners and “switchback” turns.  Oh and of course the snow had started again.   Once we were through the pass, it was back onto the Interstate.

I took the drive through Salt Lake City at night, something I have never done before, which brought a whole new perspective to the city.  The trip through this metropolis is long as there are a few cities in a row that are pretty well connected due to the population growth in the area, and therefore this section takes a couple of hours to get through.  After Salt Lake City, it was time to bed down for the night in preparation for the push north to our final destination  of Saskatoon.

My border crossing on this trip was much smoother than the last load, when they completely searched my truck and trailer.  This time I was barely stopped on the border crossing when they let me through.  After spending one more night on the road in small town in Alberta, I made my delivery to Saskatoon.  My reload was already set up for my return trip to Winnipeg, which of course became an overnight run.  This stretched my logbook to the max, and by the time I arrived in Winnipeg I was at the edge of my hours.  My first drop was at 4:00am in a “rough” area of Winnipeg, but I parked on the street just outside the delivery.  I jumped into the bunk, because I knew the receiver would knock on the side of my truck when he arrived, but not 2 minutes later, I heard a knock and thought “Wow they are early tonite!!!”  Well all was not as it seemed.  When I climbed out of my bunk and went to look, it was not the receiver there, but instead there was a “young lady” at my door.  She asked me if she could come inside to “warm up” and I told her “NO!”  At that point, she offered me her “oral skills”…and she must have been quite the talker because she was going to charge me $20.00 for these skills!  I told her my wife was in the bunk and I’d have to get her permission, to which she replied “OK!”  Laughing at her, I told her to “get lost” and climbed back into my bunk!  What an interesting city Winnipeg is!  Judy got a real kick out of this incident and it remains a topic of conversation!

After completing all my unloads in Winnipeg, I was asked to take a quick load from Winker, MB to Saskatoon and then reload back to Winnipeg.  I had planned on taking some time off at this point, but my dispatcher convinced me to take the load as he was desperate!  We headed to Winkler on Friday morning and got loaded.  Just after fully loading my truck, the shipper realized that I was a tandem and not a tri-dem and that they had over-loaded me.  They removed two pallets of potatoes from my truck and sent me on my way.  With no scale close by, I headed back to Winnipeg.  The load did not deliver to Saskatoon until Sunday morning, so I had lots of time to make the trip.  When I scaled in Winnipeg, though, I found that I was heavy everywhere, front axle, drive axles, trailer axles and gross weight!  This was NOT good!  My only option at this point was scale avoidance mode because it was too late to get any weight removed.  Amazingly, I made the trip to Saskatoon without crossing a scale and without having to detour too much out of the way.  I got unloaded, reloaded and back to Winnipeg all within my hours and then headed home for a break.

Although the weather that I had promised to Judy, never really materialized, we did have a great trip and she got to see parts of the US that she hadn’t seen before, including the beautiful canyon.  This was one of the places that I had wanted her to see and am glad that I was able to arrange it.  It is also great to have someone along with me to talk to and have some fun with to break up the monotony of mile after mile of driving, and she also gets to see what being on the road is like.  I don’t think she could do it full time like I do, but doing a trip like this every couple of months seems to work well for her.

[Edit: I just realized after posting this item, that the last time Judy was along with me, we get mixed up in Hurricane Hermine!  Maybe this is something I should be more aware of when I plan trips with her!!!]

Engine Cooking

A Test in Trucker Culinary Skills

[A full report on my current driving will be posted in a future blog entry, but this one will outline a test of something that I have heard and read about on the net]

What I thought was an “Urban Legend” is supposed to be true and therefore it is time to test it out.  The idea is that a trucker can use his engine to cook and heat food while driving down the highway, so now to put it to the test and provide the pictures to support the result (or lack thereof)!

It starts out with simple ingredients: Hot-dogs and onions, with support by tin-foil, wire and, of course one Kenworth truck engine.


Hotdogs, buns, onion and foil.


So the next step was to combine the ingredients, slice the onion and add the weiners double wrapped in tin foil (to prevent any engine oil contamination) and then to find a nice hot place on the engine to (hopefully) cook the meal.

Meal seated on top of engine


The next step was to do what I do best, drive down the highway.  I had planned on a trip of about 4 hours and hoped that was long enough to properly prepare the meal.  I departed from Eloy, Arizona (about 40 miles south of Phoenix) and began my cooking trip.  I figured by the time I had driven for 4 hours, I would be well on my way into the famous canyon section of Arizona, but real life always takes turns that you do not expect.  Shortly after arriving in Phoenix, the signs on the Interstate announced that I-17 was closed ahead due to an accident.  What should have been about a 1 hour trip through Phoenix, turned into over 2 hours in bumper to bumper, very slowly moving, traffic.  I could begin to smell a strong aroma of onion inside the cab, coming through the vents, and therefore figured that something was obviously working right!

After finally negotiating my way through the traffic and the accident finally being cleared away, I had done more than enough driving for one night and began to look for a place to park. Not far outside Flagstaff, Arizona (about 2 hours short of my original destination) I decided to pack it in for the night.  So now it was time to open the hood and see the results of my creation.

As it turns out, Engine Cooking is NOT an urban legend, but it is also not an exact science.  My meal was rather warm, although the hotdogs were just not quite completely cooked.  There was no bleed through flavour from any of the engine, so the double wrapping of foil obviously worked well.  The onions were mostly cooked, but still a little bit raw.

Hotdogs and onions


So this is definitely an experiment worth repeating and all it will take is a little more time on the “oven” to get a really decent meal.  I tried this with something relatively inexpensive, hotdogs and onions, which if ruined would not break the bank, but I have heard of people cooking roasts, fish and other meals.    I am not sure that I am prepared to tackle something that complicated right now, but am prepared to try again just to allow myself some variety from truckstop cuisine or road sandwiches.