THE TRIP FROM HELL, or is that `TO' Hell.

copyright '99

In the middle of September `98 Bin's (my wife) mother went into the hospital. In mid October Bin went to Shanghai. In the middle of Dec. Yi Ming (Bin's son) went to Shanghai. In the middle of January, after completing a novel I had been working on for some ten years, I went back trucking.

In the middle of February Bin's mom got out of the hospital and when the Chinese New Year was over her and her son came back to Canada.

Fri. Feb. 26. I picked up Bin and Yi Ming at the airport.

Sat. Feb. 27 noon, Bin went back to work. She is a Chinese Massage Therapist and works from noon to midnight seven days per week.

I had told the company I would go back to work after my wife did but I have a head cold and I really don't want to work for this company any longer.

I debate phoning the office; telling them I am not coming in, telling them I quit. They phone me. I agree to go to California.

I finish my laundry then go load my stuff into my van. I stop at a grocery store, buy some groceries and some hot food from the deli.

At 4 PM I arrive at the shop. Dispatch has left already and the shop is about to close. The tractor I am supposed to take has no snow chains. You have to have snow chains in certain parts of certain states this time of year. I search the other trucks and find mostly broken chains. I curse the other drivers who would use chains and not turn them in for repairs after their trip. I finally get a pair that are good. I load my stuff into the tractor.

Now I can't find the trailer. Dispatch gave me the wrong trailer number. I phone dispatch.

After locating the right trailer and checking it out I hook up to it and take it to a scale. It is too heavy on the front. Whoever loaded the trailer should have checked this. I curse the town driver that would leave an out of balance load for a long haul driver. I have to slide the trailer axels. The pins won't pull out. I jerk the truck back and forth and finally get the pins to move. One pin holds up and I have to beat on it with a hammer.

It is not raining but the ground is wet and now my pants are soaked. I am sweating. It is cold outside. Inside the truck it is warm.

In and out of the truck, again and again. I have to wedge the stubborn pin with a screwdriver. Finally the axels move, one hole. I have to move them four.

After I get the axels where I want them the pins won't go back in their holes.

Much later I get back in the truck and have supper. My hot rice and ribs are cold. I chip a tooth on the ribs.

I phone dispatch and tell him I quit.

8 PM I am finally away from the scale and head for the border.

I have trouble finding the customs broker, when I do it is closed, but I find the paper work in a box outside.

At the border the truck doesn't have a decal to allow me to pass so I have to pay a $5 user fee. This has to be paid in U. S. money. I have to walk across the border and find a store that will trade my Canadian money for U. S. money.

10 PM I stop for a rest. My head cold has turned to a flu. I would like to go to sleep but the Washington state permit for the tractor runs out at midnight. I am still 4 hours away from Oregon.

The tractor is going to be sold at the end of the month so they have not renewed the plates. I will have to permit each state but it still had a Washington permit from its last trip North. Of course the dispatcher hasn't told me any of this and I have to find it all out the hard way.

The PUC plate for the state of Oregon is still good for one more day so I make it through Oregon. Before going into California I stop at a truck stop and buy a permit for California.

I park in the lot at Rice Hill while I phone dispatch for my fuel card number. It is in the truck I had last trip. Dispatch said he would be in the office from 12 to 3. I start phoning at 11:30. At one I go back to sleep.

I wake up to a strange sound, yet I have heard it years before. A motor running out of fuel. Quickly I roll out of bed and turn the motor off. The truck is on a slight angle to one side which means the fuel is not equal in both tanks (one on each side) nor is it centered in the tank around the pickup tube.

At 2:30 dispatch still doesn't answer so I phone the office and the boss is in. He gives me my fuel number.

I release the brakes, put the transmission in gear, and start the truck. Quickly I pull out, up a slight grade, and get onto the street. Same strange noise. The truck runs out of fuel.

However the truck is now level so I start the truck again, shift gears as quickly as I can, getting the truck going as fast as possible. I drive about 100 feet and turn off into the fuel pumps. The motor makes that noise again.

I can't turn the motor off or I will lose steering but I step on the clutch and let the truck roll and the motor idle. I shut the motor off as it starts that noise again just as I roll up to the pumps and stop the truck.

After fueling it takes a few turns of the motor but it starts and I take it back to the parking lot and then go in for a shower.

I am driving 2 - 4 hours and sleeping one. Trying to stay awake and make it to Modesto Calif. for first thing Monday. My reload has to be picked up by 11 AM.

Where I unload has no loading dock.

Actually the place had just built a loading dock but the concrete was still green and it couldn't be used yet.

We can't get a forklift inside the trailer. The bundles of precut wood that will be used to make pallets are wedged in and we can't move them with a pallet jack.

Whoever loaded this had done it improperly and all the weight was up front. If it had been spread out I wouldn't have had to move the trailer axels. And if the bundles had been spaced properly they wouldn't be wedged together.

I am weak from the flu, and lack of sleep, and wishing I had turned down this trip.

With much manhandling, and a chain to the forklift outside, we finally get it all off.

I phone dispatch for my pickup address for the return trip and find it isn't far away but it is only going to Washington. I told them last time, and I tell them again, I don't interstate.

I said, "Find me a load that goes to Canada or I come home empty", and hung up on them.

I find a truck stop and watch movies for a day.

Dispatch sends me 6 hours South to Orange (suburb of Los Angeles).

I am getting low on fuel and look in my fuel book. I get to Dunnigan and the fuel stop has been closed down. I am nearly out of fuel but make it to the next town and luckily I see a big CFN (we only buy fuel at CFN and they are few and far between) sign beside the highway.

Wed. 1 AM. I try to get my load. I am not actually supposed to pick it up until Thur. but I am here now and maybe I will get lucky and I can get out before rush hour. The load is printed, flyer, inserts to go in newspapers all over B. C. (British Columbia) [including Kelowna (in the Okanagan Valley)] except for the Vancouver Sun. The print run is just starting and will take at least 12 hours.

I find a truck stop in Ontario, (a suburb, 1 hour to the North.) I park beside the railway tracks, across the street, because I don't want to pay the $12 to park in the truck stop. (Free if you buy fuel but I don't want to buy fuel until I am loaded and know how much room I have for weight.)

A train goes by and the truck starts to rock. I climb out of bed and let the truck roll ahead about five feet to get further from the train. I go back to bed and forget to set the idle.

Wed. morning is sunny but cool. The truck is cool. The unset idle shut the motor off about five minutes after I went to sleep. The clearance lights are still on and the batteries are dead. The truck won't start.

I try to do some paper work. I rewind my little cassette recorder but it won't play. The batteries are dead.

I try to have a shave but the battery in my rechargeable razor is dead.

I start the reefer on the trailer, borrow some jumper cables from another trucker and get my truck started, put new batteries in my recorder and do my paper work, walk across to the truck stop and have a shave in the bathroom. Man will overcome.

Wed. afternoon I go back to Orange. Bright sunny day and my sunglasses are at home. The flyers for The Sun are all printed but The Sun has phoned and asked to have it folded in a different way. The printers have to take all the bundles apart, refold each flyer, and rebundle them.

I go back to the truck stop. Turning off the freeway to the overpass I hear a tire go boom. It scares some workers on the side of the road but I know what it is.

I pull back in where I was parked the night before but the police are there handing out tickets to all the trucks parked on railway property.

I pull across to the truck stop and go hunting for tire bargains. I phone dispatch but he has no way to send me money. I tell him to put my paycheque in my bank, I can draw it out on my bank card. So now I have to use my money, that I was going to pay bills with, to buy repairs for the truck. Oh well I couldn't pay bills with it if it wasn't in the bank and if I just asked them to put it in the bank they wouldn't have been able to find the time.

The next morning I buy another permit as this one has run out.

I find a good price on tires down the street and after joking with the man in the booth get out of the parking lot for free. After buying a new tire I go and pick up my load which was ready two days ago because I don't get the B. C. load. I am going to get the load that the goes to Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, but it is not supposed to be delivered for another week so I will just take it to Vancouver.

This place doesn't have a loading dock so the forklift puts the pallets in the back of the trailer and I use a floor jack to turn them and push them to the front. There is not many and they are only 1,000 #s each so I load quickly and get out just before start of rush hour.

I had to laugh. The guy helping me with the floor jack said, "No wonder you are in such good shape." I didn't know whether to shake his hand or lend him my glasses.

On the edge of the metropolis of Los Angeles, on top of the mountain, I stop for fuel. My load is light, I can take on lots. I will fill both tanks but the station has closed for renovations.

The next fuel stop is one hour North and I have just enough fuel left to make it.

No real rush to get home but if I show on my log book that I actually drove these miles yesterday, instead of showing a day off, I can drive 20 hours today.

In Oregon the scale is open and I buy a permit. $54 dollars, my money. That's 54 American which is 80 Canadian. Sure hope the company pays me back for all of this.

I begin to realize that though I had bought a permit for Calif. it was only for the trailer. I didn't get one for the tractor. Good thing I didn't get caught.

Entering Washington I have two hours of driving time left. One hour to get to the scale and another to get to the rest area. The scale is under construction but open. It cost me $30 for a permit but I ran over a bolt with the trailer and am loosing air in one tire. An hour later, instead of finding a place to go to sleep I am looking for a tire shop. At one o'clock in the morning it cost me $60 for the man to get out of bed and patch my tire.

Now I have no time to sleep. I had phoned ahead for a dentist appointment, my chipped tooth is hurting.

At 6 AM I get to the border but they can't find my paper work. Finally, after much searching and several phone calls, it is found in the computer under a different name.

At 8 AM I roll into the B. C. scales and remember that the plates have run out. If I needed permits in each state I will need a permit in B. C. as well. Maybe they won't notice.

As I roll across the scale the sign comes on `Park and bring papers'. They have noticed the safety sticker on the side of the trailer. It expired in January. $50 fine plus a notice to get it inspected before it is used again. He checks the tractor. It expired last week. $58 fine and notice to inspect.

I talk nice to him and he makes the tickets out to the company and not to me. It is a nice sunny day after weeks of rain. I tell him it was me that brought the sunshine back from California.

I get to the shop, park the truck, and unload my stuff.

I just make it to the dentist. I wish I hadn't. The dentist from hell with the needle from hell. As he starts to drill I fall asleep. As I write this, the next day, my jaw and throat are still sore.

How was your week?

PS. The company wants me to leave tomorrow for Douglas, Arizona (on the Mexican border). They tell me my permit problems are over. All the other trucks have now been plated for all the western states and have user decals for crossing the border so I don't have to pay the $5 each time.

I want to quit but there really isn't time to find a job today and I did have a really nice trip to Nogales (50 miles west of Douglas) with that other company last year at this time.


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