Saturday, March 19, 2011

Trial by Fire

I finally found a ride to Idaho to pick up the tractor in Payette. As usual, nothing went as planned. The driver picked me up at a truck stop about 5 miles from my house on Friday morning at 6am. He asked if I would mind driving. I was happy to oblige since I have not yet had the benefit of any mountain driving experience and I was more than happy to have somebody that's done it before in the passenger seat for my trial run. I think his main motive for wanting me to drive was so he could save on log hours and continue driving once we reached Payette. Just as well, the situation still worked in my favor since I was able to get just a little more free training out of it.

The drive to Payette was uneventful but yet informative. The guy I was with was also a company trainer and very friendly. He talked me through all the mountain driving and our 6 hour trip seemed to pass almost too quickly.

When I arrived and located the truck I was supposed to pick up, I realized that it was one of the older trucks that they wanted back at the main office so they could sell it off. Whoever this truck was assigned to last was a nasty slob! All I can say, glad that's not the truck they're assigning to me. Turns out, the bunk heater didn't even work (that's what keeps you warm in the middle of the night).

About the time I climbed in the truck I received a dispatch. I was to pick up a trailer full of beer and head back to Portland. Yes, I know! Sounds like a dream come true to have 43k lbs of beer behind you. But, alas, the doors are sealed and I'm not allowed in. I immedeatly started to hunt for my keg party on wheels and it was nowhere to be found. I called my driver manager and she told me that the trailer was about 7 hours out. Bearing in mind that I had not yet exhausted all available driving hours, I was hoping to leave Payette that night and try to get about 4 hours down the road.

Accepting my fate and knowing that I wouldn't be leaving till the next day, I decided to bed down in the nasty and cold truck for the night. Fortuitous as it was that I had the foresight to bring plenty of blankets, this offered no help to me when I actually had to get out of bed in the morning. I can describe it in 2 words brrrrrr rrrrrrr!!!

I was not at all surprised when I got up the next morning and found that my trailer still hasn't arrived. I kinda figured this guy would run short of hours and stop for the night. I sat in the drivers lounge (it has a heater) and watched with optimism and intent as ever truck pulled into the yard. Finally, at about 10am, I saw trailer 1166 go past the window. Hurray, now the fun can begin.

Heading west on hwy 84 from Idaho you encounter several climbs and drops. But the grandaddy, just before you reach Pendleton, is Cabbage Hill. Bear in mind that the westward journey is steeper than the eastward route we tackled the previous day. I was also 20k heavier and I was going down instead of up.

Right after you start on the downside of the pass, you come around corner and you see a long stretch of road that dips down like a scary carnival ride and almost disappears underneath you.Off in the distance, you can get side view of where you'll soon be should you survive the hairpin turn. The side view was equally intimidating because it appeared to be at the same angle as all those teeter totters that you see people fall off of in America's Funniest Videos. I didn't want my truck to fall off this teeter totter. I selected a low gear and turned on the jake and let that engine whine like a kid in a doctors office on shot day. 22 tons of beer at my back pushing with all it's might was not enough to overcome the mighty Peterbilt. We held steady at 30mph down in the entire 6% grade and I never even touched the brakes.

All said and done, I'm just glad I didn't spill any beer!



  1. Well done, my son! Did you have to unload it when you got it home?

  2. Good job! Glad you made it down the hill without spilling anything. Are you home now?

  3. I didn't have to unload it. I left the trailer in a drop yard and somebody else will take it to the final destination.

  4. It's very interesting to hear about your trucking experiences. I didn't even think about driving hours, heaters not working, etc. I'm learning a lot!

  5. I too am learning and enjoying your blog. Keep being safe out there!

  6. Monty says you did a good job, but SOMEbody had to have a hot knife you could have used to open that big 'ol beer can you were hauling.

  7. Thanks for letting us ride in the virtual shotgun seat. First run seemed to go well. You're a driver now!