SPRING `99 - TRIP ONE,
LOS ANGELES CALIFORNIA, USA

copyright '99

THE REEFER FROM HELL

On a trip South in early March the fields in Oregon were full of sheep, up to their ankles in water.

On my next trip South in late March the waters had receded and the fields were full of new born lambs.

Spring had arrived and so had the young colts, and calves, tottering about on shaky legs.

On my journeys along the I-5 I often wonder about the name signs along the freeway, `Port of Stockton', `Port of Tacoma'. These places are so far from the ocean how can they be ports? Yet you drive over the bridges and look down on huge ocean going freighters.

In California the Highway Patrol like to do power turns across the medians. There the medians are wide, fairly shallow, and sun hardened dirt. The police will be cruising North, fly across the median and be speeding South.

In March I saw a patrol car in the middle of the median, front bumper buried in the mud. The rest of the car was flat on the ground. Hull down would be the military term if he was a dug in tank.

The officer was standing by his car, calf deep, trying to figure out which would be the shortest distance to high ground.

I imagine he forgot it had rained recently.

L. A. is a conglomeration of cities. In the middle of all these cities is a city called Chino. I thought maybe the map was old and didn't show all the side streets. But, just like on the map, intersections are few and far between. There are no side streets.

In the dark I could barely make out, beside the street, not houses and stores, but cows, Holsteins. Chino is dairy country. Feeder lots.

The streets got narrower and deteriorated more with each turn I made. Finally I came to a sign on a narrow lane that said, "Road Ends 50 Ft."

With nowhere to turn I proceeded, slowly. The 50 feet was a fairly new concrete bridge which I assumed would hold my weight.

On the other side of the bridge was a trail that cars had been using and an open field where cars had parked and people had dumped garbage.

The ground looked hard and I cautiously turned around. As I was completely lost I parked for the night and climbed into bed amongst the smell of cow manure.

Not really lost, just confused. I have never been lost but some times I get all foncusious and get my mix talked up. Like that time I up with my twenty rife-twofle and shot me a hop rabbit jacking off across the field.

With daylight I found that what I had thought was a driveway on the other side of the bridge was actually the road into where I wanted to be.

The bundles of lumber came off fairly quickly and I drove back through all the farms of Holsteins into the city of Ontario which is a residential community. I feel sorry for the residents. They probably pray they never get a Northerly breeze.

Driving North East I went to the city of Colton. In the middle of a residential district with signs that say no parking of trucks over five tons is a factory.

I loaded four pallets of frozen pie crusts for Safeway in Edmonton and then zipped back, South West, on the freeways across the metropolis. Also across a cellular phone lying on the pavement. Now how did that get there?

In the city of Vernon, directly South of the city of L. A. I loaded ten pallets of beer steins. Mason jars with handles.

I told them I didn't want to open my doors until everything was ready as my pie crusts couldn't be allowed to go up in temperature.

When they told me everything was ready I opened my doors and backed in.

One screw up after another. An hour later I finally closed my doors. The temperature in my trailer had gone from 10 F. to 32 F.

I whipped into the edge of L. A. and got some fuel. The reefer had been running rough and I thought it might be low on fuel so I put thirty gallons in the trailer tank.

Back onto the I-5 just at the start of rush hour. Also the start of Spring break so the highways were busy all the way North. U. S. schools have their break two weeks after Canadian schools.

Past magic Mountain, I could see hundreds of kids on the huge rides.

Up over the Grape Vine Hill. The Grape Vine is a section of highway that takes you North through the mountains.

L. A. is surrounded by rings of mountain. You may have heard of the L. A. bowl. The city of L. A. itself, and a few of its immediately surrounding cities, sits in a bowl amongst mountains. Outside the mountains are more rings of mountains. The rings are separated by valleys and canyons. The valleys have cities in them and some of the canyons have homes but most are steep and barren.

Just like there are few passes for highways into B. C. there are only a few ways to get in and out of L. A. The Grape Vine is the main road to the North.

I swerved to avoid a bed liner out of a pickup. I don't know how those things come out but I occasionally see them, and canopies, along the side of the road. This is the first I have met in the middle of the road. The owner was running back along the shoulder to get it.

I also see trees go by. Have you ever seen a pickup taking a tree home, or a large truck taking a big tree to a park or some place? In California I often see trailers going South, never North, with two large Palm trees.

A few trips ago I met a couple from Quebec in Gilroy, Calif. As I was going North on the I-5 I saw Dennis going South. At least it looked like his rig but I didn't have a CB to call him.

Friday night I went to bed with the reefer [refrigeration unit on the reefer (van trailer with a reefer unit)] roaring in my ears. Saturday morning I woke up to silence. The reefer was off and the temperature was up to thirty-two F. I tried to start it and it did. It ran rough for a few minutes, then died.

I had spent the night at a rest area in Northern California. The closest truck stop with a mechanic which was in Medford Oregon. A simple change of fuel filters, which I had to pay for because the truck stop wouldn't take the company Visa number over the phone, and it was purring like a kitten. Well roaring like a lion. It was one of the noisiest reefers it has been my displeasure to pull.

Saturday night I spend the night at Rice Hill in Oregon. I was in no hurry going North as I had to make a pickup at noon on Sunday in Eugene, Oregon. The reefer was running when I went to sleep. When I woke up it was dead and so were the batteries. I bought some jumper cables and charged the battery off my truck.

Same as the day before, it started but wouldn't keep running. The truck stop didn't have a shop so I drive to Eugene where there was a mechanic on duty.

Again I had to use my money to buy a filter. They only the primary, and not the secondary filter, in stock so we just changed the one instead of both but it did the trick. The reefer was running fine.

I sat around until noon until I could get hold of the shipper but he told me he had sent the stuff with a different truck the day before. Slightly ticked off I headed for home.

I got into Vancouver about one o'clock Monday morning and drove to Burnaby just North of my home and backed into my first customer but kept the doors closed.

About six AM I woke up and got out my portable computer. I was working on this story when I heard the reefer quit. Maybe it was allergic to dawn.

I didn't bother to check it. After unloading I went to the next customer, a trucking company, and transferred the frozen product to them as they were going to take it to Edmonton. I was glad to get rid of it as I believe it was spoiled. Four times it had been above 32 degrees.

I took the truck back to the yard and told the dispatcher I wouldn't be available for the rest of the week. I told him I would be sleeping in the day time and working nights on a movie. I was no sooner home than he called to see if I could work that afternoon. I just hung up on him.

I was going to do some serious job hunting over the next few days and get a real job with a real company but I spent most of my time working on this story and my novel. I did phone the union hall but the movies were still slow and no work was expected for me for another month.

THE END

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