It’s been said if you drive a semi for a year, you’ll have a lifetime of stories to tell. If that’s true then I’d better get started telling my stories because I’ve been driving a truck now for 16 years.
One of the first things a driver learns is that the show must go on. Hot freight can’t wait. When you’re hauling upwards of a million dollars in merchandise, people start to get a little antsy if the truck doesn’t show up when expected.
One miserably cold winter day, I picked up a load in Des Moines, IA and headed north to Winnipeg. Canada! Not really the place I wanted to go in the dead of winter. Stopping to sleep awhile in Fargo, North Dakota, I got up to leave at six o’clock the next morning. The temperature was -42 degrees and the wind was howling. Just in case you are wondering, yes, that is cold! The State Police were advising no unnecessary travel. Great! But then, they always say that - it’s not really an indication of the road conditions. And it doesn’t matter. Unless the roads are closed, the trucks will be rolling.
There were five of us that left a few minutes past 6:00 - all headed to Winnipeg. I was fourth in line. It wasn't snowing but the wind made it seem as if we were in a blizzard. Visibility was down to just a few feet. We drove at speeds of 15 – 25 mph, keeping the truck in front of us in sight and maintaining contact with the CB. The driver of the lead truck was a local guy who knew the road well, having driven it every day for 20 years, but even he was having trouble keeping his bearings. Every overpass was drifted nearly shut and we drove in the center of the road, hoping each time we plowed through a drift that no hidden cars were stuck there. It wouldn’t have been just one truck that wrecked; it would have been all five.
All day long we drove like that; single file, no one getting in a hurry, content to follow the guy up front who sort of knew where we were from time to time. Strangely, we never encountered another vehicle all the way to the Canadian border. We thought that was a little odd, but then figured maybe everyone else was smarter that we were. Normally, the entire trip from Fargo to Winnipeg would’ve taken only four hours, but dusk was settling when we arrived at the customs gate.
The Canadian customs agents were preparing to leave when we pulled up – and they were perplexed by our sudden appearance. How had we managed to get there? Apparently, all roads in North Dakota had been closed since 6:30 that morning. How nice! It would’ve been even nicer had someone told us. At least it explained why we’d seen no traffic all day. In the fastest customs processing I’d ever experienced, the agents told us to keep moving. Winnipeg was still another 100 kilometers (about 62 miles), and they didn’t want us to be stranded outside the city.
Conditions hadn’t improved and it was past 8 p.m. when I delivered my load. I then made fast tracks to an already crowded truck stop. By now, all the roads out of Winnipeg were closed and the truck stop, with room for about 60 trucks, was jammed with more than 300 rigs. For the next two days, the truck stop was home, while the wind continued to blow. Depending on which thermometer you looked at, the temperature was somewhere between -50 and -60 degrees Fahrenheit. (It seems that even thermometers have difficulty in extreme cold). The locals insisted it wasn’t all that cold. I decided they’d lived in the frigid climate so long their brains had ceased to function. My own was in serious danger of freezing up, but somehow it still managed to fire on all synapses – just slower than normal.
Finally, two days later, the wind stopped and the sun came out, warming the ambient temperature to a balmy -30 degrees! For a brief moment, I thought I was on a tropical vacation. As soon as the roads were open, 300 trucks rumbled out of the truck stop – mine included. Heading east, on Canada’s only freeway, I picked up a load in Dryden, ON and finally turned south, crossing back into America! Late that night, I made it home safe and sound.
So, what was I hauling to Winnipeg that was so vitally crucial to the survival of society that I had to lose two days of my life stuck in Canada? Magazines. Tabloids to be specific. Yep, people need their gossip.
Bruce A. Borders, author and songwriter has over 500 songs and 9 books. Over My Dead Body, his latest ebook, is available on Apple I-Pad®, Amazon Kindle®, Barnes & Noble Nook® and Sony Reader®. For more information, visit http://www.bruceaborders.com/ or http://overmydeadbody.jimdo.com/.