Friday, May 2, 2008

Where Spring Is Still A Rumor

Hello from North Dakota. I'm currently under a load that I deliver Monday morning to a place in Detroit, Michigan. This is my second time in the last few days to stay at this same truck stop (the Flying J in Beach, North Dakota, just on the Montana/ND line).

As I write, I'm enjoying listening to music by James McMurtry, son of Larry McMurtry, whose book serves as the inspiration on some level for what Terry and I started out to do last year as we started driving this truck around the country. James McMurtry was on a show on XM Public Radio I listen to most days called Soundcheck and they played some of the cuts off his latest CD.

Now the coolness of living with technology that we have today – last night, I stopped in Great Falls, Montana, not a large city by any definition. Two hours after I heard James McMurtry on the radio, I'm hooked up to the internet, buy his latest album on Itunes for $10, and I'm listening to the music on my laptop. How cool is that?!?

I never grow tired of being enamored of technology – every time I go online to pay my bills (it has literally been years since I've paid a bill by writing a check and mailing it), e-mail someone I love from the middle of nowhere (kind of like where I am right now), read blogs and newsgroups, I am amazed that, though I am more isolated and solitary than anyone I know in this life on the road, I am as connected in many senses as anyone I know.

You (and sometimes I do also) can pine for the “good old days” all you want; I am glad to be living in this place and time that in many ways that matter (and I'm not talking about technology necessarily now) is better than any time in history.

Back out west. Last time I wrote, I was on my way up to Bloomington, Minnesota (just south of Minneapolis), after being in California, getting to drive one of my favorite routes through Nevada, Utah and Colorado – ah!

I delivered last Friday. The night before, I shut down in Des Moines. As I headed north the next morning, south of Minneapolis, I hit the snow. Not just flurries, but mid-winter snow. Accompanied by wind and cold.

I was tempted to return my calendar for being defective.

By the time I delivered to Bloomington, I had my next load: picking up a relay load at a drop yard Schneider has in Blaine, Minnesota (just north of Minneapolis), and taking it to Sumner, Washington (just outside Seattle). Back out west! And going through Montana! And a lot of miles! Life is good.

The only problem (which wasn't a problem, but merely one of the situations that happens to truck drivers) was that the other driver (who was bringing the load from Battle Creek, Michigan, as far as Minnesota) wasn't going to be there until the next day.

I didn't have a trailer, so I used the opportunity to go up the road to a Target and Walmart, and got some things I needed or wanted. That was a nice diversion.

Saturday about 10:00 am local time, the other driver got there with the trailer. It was still snowing, but as I went further west, by the time I got to Fargo, North Dakota, the snow was supposed to clear up.

I get rolling, and am taking it easy because there's snow and ice on the road, it's snowing, 31 degrees, and there's quite a bit of traffic.

107 miles from Fargo. Cool. Maybe I can make it as far as Bismarck before shutting down.

Uh-oh. What's this? Sign up ahead, one of those flashing signs you see around road construction. It says: “Road closed after next exit. All traffic must exit.”

Turn on the CB and find out what's going on: I-94 is snow- and ice-covered, and there was an accident involving 5 trucks. No ETA on when it will re-open.

There is nowhere else to go, so I pull over to the side of the road near the entrance to a rest area (which was so full, the ramp leading into it was packed with trucks shut down and waiting) and just sit, watching the snow, listening to XM, listening for updates on the CB, reading, thinking.

Three hours later, they opened the road back up. The road was in decent shape, but there were still areas where the snow and ice were still heavily packed on the road. I finally made it to Fargo, and was too tired to go any further, so I just shut down there. I had plenty of time on this load.

So the past week, I've been driving to Washington state and then turning around and coming right back.

Going through Montana, as always, was spectacular. Next to Texas, Montana is my favorite state to drive through.

It was even more special because having recently finished reading the Journals of Lewis and Clark , many of the places and features they described were fresh in my mind and I enjoyed noticing things that I've never really paid attention to when I have gone through there before.

Yesterday, as I was coming east on Montana 200, just east of Rogers Pass, I was coming down the east side of the mountains on this curvy, twisty, two-lane road, surrounded by unmelted snow (though the road was dry and it wasn't snowing then), going about 40 miles per hour, rounded a curve to see about 5 deer standing about a foot from the right side of the road. I hit my brakes, and about 50 feet from them, one of them just walks out in front of the truck. Killed the deer, but only broke the plastic grille on the front of the truck in the middle. I hated it, but there was truly nothing I could have done.

There is no doubt I could write more, but it's time for me to go to bed.

I've got pictures to post, but I'll do that next time.

Until next time . . . keep the wheels rollin' . . . hopefully toward spring . . .

Allan, who is enjoying “Freeway View” by James McMurtry (from Just Us Kids )

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