A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water. ~ Carl Reiner
Well, it had to happen sometime. I was bound to have to deal with winter. I had been having a lovely time avoiding it but that has come to an end. Not only did I have to deal with winter, I had to brave the “Polar Vortex” of doom because everything sounds more ominous when you add of doom to it.
If you’ve never had to feel a wind of -40 below, I hope that never changes for you. Fun fact. -40 is the same in both Farenheit and Celsius. Either was it;s really really really cold. Unfortunately, I was going to be in even colder weather. A couple of things I learned. First, don’t touch your lock with your bare hands when it’s this cold outside. It will freeze to your skin. Thankfully I had the presence of mind to not try to rip it off but instead let my hand warm the metal. That was the longest few minutes. Secondly, cold hands make everything harder. From opening my fuel tanks to depressing the pump handle to actually fuel my truck. Two pairs of gloves weren’t enough. Neither were multiple layers of clothing.
After leaving Denver and heading to Michigan, I knew that my life was going to suck for several days. While I only dealt with the tail end of the polar vortex (of doom) the effects were still there. For the first time since having Large Marge, I didn’t turn her off for days. I needed to keep the engine running to ensure my fuel didn’t gel up and leave me stranded. There are additives we use to keep diesel from gelling, but in the temperatures I was in its better to be safe than sorry. Every time I fueled I added more additive as per the instructions from not only other drivers but from our road assist people and idled my truck as I slept.
My first big problem came on Day two of my drive to Calgary as I was headed into a winter storm in North Dakota.
That red dot was my current location and I pretty much needed to drive through that whole thing. No big deal, I thought. It’s dry so it shouldn’t be too bad.
Famous. Last. Words.
Part of my route took me off the interstate and on to a small two lane highway. While the snow was indeed light and dry instead of a thick and wet, what I didn’t take into account was the wind effect. Soon after pulling onto the two lane highway, I realized I was in trouble. Within 30 minutes I couldn’t see the lane so I drove using the feel of the rumble strips on the side of the road to gauge where I was. Another 30 minutes later, I could no longer feel those. As I gripped my steering wheel a bit tighter I realized that I was in real danger. Between the blowing snow and the drifts piling up,. I couldn’t exactly tell where the edges were. This particular road had very little to no shoulder room so one wrong calculation and I would be in a ditch.
A drive that should have taken me 45 minutes took over two hours and I knew I needed to find a safe haven to park for the night. Luckily, at my turn off from one highway to the next I found a place to park.
As I sat there shaking, trying to relive the pressure and the stress of my drive, all I could see was this.
It’s like the universe was telling me it was time to wind down with some gin. The only problem is that would require pants (because that’s always the first to go when I stop) and a long cold walk across a parking lot. My love of gin would just have to wait. There was no way I was getting out of my warm truck.
The next day wasn’t as bad because the plows had been out. I, however, was now behind schedule. The nice thing about doing this Calgary run so often is that I know exactly where my stopping points are and how long it takes me to go from point A to B. I knew I could make up the time but I also knew that it would mean more stress.
The wind was still blowing the snow around, making lovely patterns on the roads, but I could at least make out where the lanes were. This was a huge improvement from the night before.
My last fuel stop was in Minot, ND. I pulled into the station only to find out they were out of fuel. No big deal, there was another station a couple of miles up the road. Unfortunately, they were also out of fuel. While I had enough to last me, getting fuel before heading across the boarder is the cheapest option. The Canadian taxes on fuel are a killer. Alas, this is what I had to do.
Everything was going fine on my drive until the sun went down and the snows started up again. While not as heavy, they posed their own challenge. I tend to drive slower than most trucks on the road. Sometimes it’s due to my governor on my engine that doesn’t allow me to exceed 65mph; sometimes it’s because I just want to take it easy and save on fuel costs. Typically I don’t care when I get passed, but this night it was a horror show. The winds had caused the snow too accumulate in the passing lane, so when another truck passed me it was complete white out. There was more than once I was forced to apply my breaks as I was in a whiteout condition and couldn’t see anything ahead of me. After dealing with this for a couple of hours my nerves were frayed and it was time to stop for the night.
My resting place was just outside of Swift Current in a extremely bright weigh station. Frazzled and exhausted, I wasn’t ready for sleep and chose to sit and watch the snow fall.
After my load was completed I was looking forward to a couple of days off. My fleet manager had other ideas and sent me a load I couldn’t refuse. The bastard really knows how to get me to say yes. So, I’m back in Washington with another apple load heading to Florida. A quick look at the weather and its going to be another few stressful days. Winter here in the states is pretty unpredictable as it is, but add in the stress and uncertainty of road closures and ice covered terrain, well it really adds a whole new spin on it.
Of course, it is awful pretty to look at.
I know I’m nearing the end of my rope. Since returning from Ireland I’ve been on full tilt with nothing more than 24 hours off between loads and it’s really starting to take a toll on me both mentally and physically. Little things are setting me off and my mood swings have been pretty severe. I had planned on working through until the first weekend in March when I head home to celebrate my friend’s 50th birthday, but now I think I really need a couple of days off before that. I’m going to ask to be sent to Tulsa after this load for a bit of R&R with my girls.
Until next time my lovelies. Xoxo