It's Friday and I am still here. By that I mean that I got in Wednesday night and unloaded, my boss wanted me to go to Seattle and load for Alaska. I told him, "No". Thursday he took the rig to Seattle to load and I haven't heard from him since so I don't know if I am taking it North or if he has found someone else.
I left Vancouver, B. C. on the evening of Friday April 3rd, drove my van to Aldergrove and loaded my bedding into a 1994 Freightliner conventional with a 3176 Cat motor (a relatively small motor in today's trucks but pulls good in the hills) and an 18 speed Eaton transmission. A walk-in sleeper with upper and lower bunks.
I bobtailed to Tacoma, Washington where I picked up an empty 48' reefer, then back tracked up the I-5 to Seattle, onto the 405, up to 2, East through a rain storm in Steven's Pass. I got to Dryden about four in the morning having now been up for twenty-two hours, since I had woken at six AM, funny how dispatchers never take that into account. I got about two hours sleep and then loaded, pears, for Mexico.
Before and during loading I noticed a pool of antifreeze under my truck. Caterpillar has a system with their water pumps whereby a small filter on the side starts weeping if their is trouble inside the pump thus warning you to change it before it leaks internally into the oil pan and really causes problems. I didn't know this at the time. All I knew was that the water pump was leaking and the nearest Cat dealer was in Wenatchee.
All the scales in the area were closed so I couldn't weigh my truck but I arranged for a mechanic to meet me in Wenatchee and headed East instead of South.
The shop didn't have a water pump so they had one flown in from Seattle but Seattle couldn't find anyone who wanted to go to the airport so it didn't get out until the last flight of the day. I had some more sleep, wandered the mall in town then walked back to my truck, it was a beautiful sunny day in the Okanagan valley, and tried to sleep some more. The mechanic and the pump showed up just after dark when the wind picked up and turned cold.
The mechanics worked outside but didn't mind as they were hoping for snow because they were heading for the hills to go snowmobiling as soon as they were through with me. They had gone the night before and had had bright moon light on fresh snow and had really enjoyed it.
I finally got mobile about ten o'clock and went South to a truck stop at Rock Island where I weighed and found that I didn't have any room left for fuel of which I had very little. I also had to adjust the position of the axels under the trailer, while doing so cracked my head on something under the trailer. I fought with the unfriendly slider for nearly an hour to move it a simple four holes. After washing the blood off my head I went to bed, thoroughly exhausted and frustrated.
About three AM I proceeded South per my boss's instructions. If one looks at a map there is generally a road leading in a relatively straight line from one place to the next. However my boss, after many years of running the roads, has found other roads that he feels have less hills thus saving him fuel so he gives, seemingly, weird directions.
If you have a map, I left mine in the truck, and wish to follow my route, I went south on Highway 95, I believe, to Mosses Lake, back over to Yakima, South, through huge farms that have been wrested from the desert with irrigation, to Umatilla, then West along the North side of the Columbia river, and crossed into Oregon at Biggs.
On the Columbia River large barges are being pushed by tug boats, back home the barges are pulled by the tugs. Just East of Biggs is a huge hydro electric dam, John Day Dam, with a lock for the barges to go up and down. Across the wide river I can see small tractor trailers moving East and West along a highway parallel to the one I am on. The hills are rolling and green.
The atlas I am looking at doesn't show roads but I worked my way through Madras, to Chemult, and South to Klamath Falls where I slept.
I left Klamath at two in the morning and it started to snow. There was hardly any other traffic as I went East so there were no tire tracks to follow. At times the wipers couldn't keep up with the snow and I had trouble staying on my side of the narrow winding road.
Later in the morning I turned South into California, into the high plains desert and saw a sight few people see, a white desert. The cacti, sagebrush, rocks, everything was dripping hoarfrost. The world was a sea of white, blindingly reflecting the bright morning sun from a thin layer of snow as far as the eye could see in every direction.
My next stop was Reno Nevada where I was disappointed to learn that one armed bandits are mostly obsolete, they have been replaced with modern electronic push button machines, you drop in your dime or quarter and push a button that says `spin', how boring. I didn't go to any casinos but the truck stop had enough machines and tables to take me for twenty dollars.
From Reno I worked my way through more desert, and another snow squall, to Mina and Tonopah where I slept and then to Las Vegas where I became absolutely lost.
I hadn't been to Vegas for nearly thirty years and I drove around and around looking for a truck stop, my boss is very poor at giving directions unless it is a highway which will save him fuel. Las Vegas is a boom town with new subdivisions and new freeways being built everywhere,
I saw a police car stopped so I stopped and while waiting to talk to her, she was busy with someone else, another police car stopped so I asked him where to go and he told me to turn around and go left. The first officer came over and she told me to turn around and go right. At least they both agreed I should turn around and they both said it wasn't against the law to turn a rig in the middle of the street, if it didn't say no u turn, so I did. The streets are wide enough there to do so.
From Las Vegas I went back into California to Vidal Junction, sent postcards from there, wish I had bought more of them, they are quite unique, an aerial view of the desert with a crossing of two lines which are highways and a few buildings at the junction.
From there I went into Arizona and more desert, South to I-10 at Quartzite, then East to Phoenix, Tucson, and finally South to Nogales.
Nogales, Arizona is a small town that is mainly a freight crossing place. Warehouses receive goods and transfer them into larger trailers with lots of chrome and many lights. These trailers are taken across the border by beat up old tractors.
In Nogales, Mexico fancy tractors with lots of chrome, big motors, and many lights will hook onto two trailers that are over loaded, they don't have weight restrictions, shoulders, or speed limits on the highways in Mexico. It takes the rigs 4 days to get to Mexico city and each trailer carries four spare tires secured by wide bands of bright chrome.
As it would take until the end of the day for them to unload my trailer, everything is done Manana in Mexico, I left the trailer and bobtailed downtown where I walked across the border into Nogales, Sonora and did some tourist type stuff. I did this several times over the next week or so.
In Nogales I loaded some tomatoes from Mexico and took them to Los Angeles in California. Again I missed the main road. I went south between Tucson and Phoenix to Yuma, crossed into California, turned North, bordered the Salton Sea, a large salt water lake that is below sea level, to Palm Springs, which I always thought was in Florida, and is also below sea level, then into Compton which is a suburb East of Los Angeles.
Again I got to see something most people don't see, green. All through the desert and all around L. A. the hills were green. They have had more rain this year than all of last year. The skies were clear, the hills were green and the cacti, tumbleweed, and sagebrush were in bloom with yellow and purple flowers.
After unloading I spent a night at the truck stop in Ontario, there are many towns in the U. S. called Ontario, which I always thought was a province in Canada, which is another suburb, East of Compton, and has a large mall called Ontario mills. Here there are two theatres one with 23 screens and one with 30. I went to see Mercury Rising. Excellent movie.
In the city of Irwindale I loaded pre packaged salad for a company in Phoenix and it had to be there by six the next morning so I went all night without sleep to get there at 6:30 and find out they didn't want me until 8.
In many places they don't allow company forklifts to go into the trailers so there are independent workers called lumpers who will take your load off but I didn't have any money with me and had never heard of such a thing so I ended up unloading the pallets with an electric floor jack and then breaking the pallets down so they weren't stacked so high. It took me about three hours by which time I was completely burned out, but I did get paid $75 which is about 20 an hour so that wasn't too bad. And I did need the exercise.
I am definitely going to lose weight. My new diet is to not eat everything that is on my plate. If I order a burger I get it without fries or I get the fries but not the burger. This way I will still eat the foods I like but should lose weight.
From Phoenix I went empty to Nogales where I again went across the border and bought some more souvenirs for friends back home. When you leave Mexico they don't ask you anything, you just say, "I'm Canadian and I bought this." and point at, or open, your purchase and they wave you through. Except when I bought a Cuban cigar for a friend back home. You can't bring anything from Cuba into the U. S.
The customs officer said I couldn't bring it in. I said, "It's only one." He said it didn't matter if it was one or ten. I said it wasn't going to the U. S. it's going to Canada. He said it can't come into the U. S. I said let's put it into bond. Then it doesn't come in. He asked, "What's that?" I said truckers do it all the time. You put a load in bond here and take it out of bond when it gets to Canada. Legally it is never in the U. S. He phoned up stairs, talked for awhile, said, "Yeah, just one," got a sheepish look on his face, hung up the phone, handed me the cigar and said, "Get the #$%# out of here."
In Nogales I loaded cucumbers and other produce and took it to Los Angeles, where I got lost and ended up driving around the Union Station in downtown L. A.
Another night in Ontario and another movie. `Lost in Space'. Walked out half way through. Too tired and it was too loud. I hate wrap-around sound.
Next day I loaded in the City of Industry, another suburb of L. A., ketchup and other stuff for Macdonald's. I got a look at the plant where they make the ketchup and patties. I saw how they make the little packages that you can't rip open without getting mustard on your new white shirt. One of the things I enjoy about trucking is touring the plants where I load or unload and see how things are made.
Again back to Phoenix. Then back to Mexico, more tourist type shopping then load almost a full load of cantaloupe and four pallets of watermelon. The watermelon go to the West side of Phoenix. Then I go back to the far East side, a suburb called Chandler, and load four pallets of grapes.
The next day, in another suburb of L. A., there are so many I can't remember which ones I was in anymore, I unload and help inspect the grapes. We don't understand why they had been rejected, all seem firm and tasty.
The cantaloupe go to another suburb and now I have a day off. Again I go to the truck stop in Ontario where I do laundry and catch up on my sleep. Another movie. `As Good as it Gets'. I can see why the actor and actress got Oscars. Fantastic movie.
Monday, back near where I unloaded the cantaloupe, after two hours of fighting traffic, after rush hour, I load four pallets of pineapple, then back through L. A. out to Palm Springs and South to Mecca where I load four pallets of cantaloupe. Back to L. A. but I blow a fan belt in Banning. Stop at the scales for six hours while a mechanic brings me a belt and fixes an airline and discovers a broken spring.
I spend the night and most of the day in Ontario, Ca. as I wait for another tractor because they can't get me a spring until the next day out of Reno. Darcy shows up, it took him over an hour to get into the truck stop. Darcy and I switch tractors. It takes me forty-five minutes to get out of the truck stop onto the freeway, a distance of two blocks. The truck stop has it's own traffic jam. Rigs trying to get in and rigs trying to get out. A truck stop on both sides of the street. Rigs are backed up to, and onto, the freeway, in both directions.
Through L. A., before rush hour, to Oxnard which is on the Pacific coast North of L. A. Load seven pallets of lemons. Supper in Ventura, start out hwy. 126, stop for sleep.
Hwy. 126, (The Ventura Hwy.). While I was driving I was playing a tape by a band called `America' and listening to their songs. `Ventura Hwy.', `A Horse with No Name', and others were inspired from their visits to this area.
Hwy. 126 is; narrow, steep and winding, wth tunnels that I barely fit into for the first part and then opens out onto a large desert plateau.
Both sides of the highway are lined with pickups and hunters with rifles looking out into the desert. Your guess is as good as mine.
I arrive six AM at Porterville, North of Bakersfield on Hwy 99. Load eleven pallets of Oranges.
North on 99 to Sacramento, I-5 to Weed, onto 97 to Klamath Falls and stop for sleep. Cut West on 58 to Eugene, about half way it starts to rain, rush hour and pouring, takes an hour to get through Portland. North on I-5 to Canada and home where I unload in downtown Vancouver nearly two days late. Total distance, forgot to add it up, time, 20 days.
Boss says I am to load in Seattle tomorrow for Alaska.
In your dreams buddy.
Sat. nine AM, just talked to the boss. He loaded in Seattle yesterday and didn't get home until midnight, got two other drivers to run team and take my rig North. Will have me take another tractor to Seattle on Mon. and load.
If this trip takes three weeks it will be divorce city for sure. But hey that's truckin'.
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