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Travels of the Trucker Post #2 Onward to Revelstoke

October 23, 2011

Late Night

It’s getting late in the day, my log book needs 3 hours off duty so I take it near Kananaskis on the outskirts of Canmore. If I take my break now I can drive until Midnight before I have to stop. I stay in Kananaskis until 7pm before I head back out on the road. It is now dark and I have to pass through Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise again. As I get past the BC/ Alberta Boundary I know that I still have the Roger’s Pass to do. At this time of year before the snow starts it is an easy journey. I am still ever watchful for Black Ice as it is raining everywhere I go. I approach the first Brake Check for trucks just before the Field Hill and make a quick stop long enough to satisfy myself that my Brakes are okay. Do I get out and actually look at anything, No! I’m empty so there is less braking required. My “Jake” brakes will hold me back sufficiently enough that I wont even need to touch my brakes. I go down Field hill, lots of traffic on the road tonight and soon I am at the bottom. Nothing spectacular here, just a long downward hill with a 70 and a 50 kilometer per hour construction zone and bridge repair. After getting to the bottom of the Field hill it is a short jaunt over to Golden. I still have to do the snake pit before I reach Golden. It is aptly called the snake pit because it twists and turns and winds its way down the hill like a snake in a series of 40 kilometer s turns that zigzag all the way down into the town of Golden before it levels out. Golden is like a sigh of relief when going Eastwards. It is kind of the boundary synonymous between Good and Evil. After Golden things get easier to manage going Eastwards as you leave the mountains for the prairies. Going Westwards Craigellachie is the boundary that I feel represents the geographical boundary of Hell. Between Golden and Revelstoke lies 135 kilometers of rugged and hilly terrain and smack dab in the middle is the Roger’s Pass. This is an area that sees it’s fair share of accidents in the winter for all types of reasons. Snow, Ice, Black ice, hard to see rainfalls, pitch black darkness and whiteout winter driving conditions. It’s those times when my stomach starts to churn as I drive each kilometer in this no mans land.  I stop in Golden for a quick trip to Tim Horton’s for my nightly coffee. (Did I say Tim Horton’s is a Canadian tradition of coffee and donuts?)

Coffee to go

The coffee to go and I am on my way. Pulling out, at one of the very few stop lights in town, I head off into the darkness. 30 kilometers west of Golden lies another brand new Government funded weigh scale paid for with the sweat and labor of drivers who have been fined by CVSE officers who diligently go over your truck with a fine tooth comb in an enclosed inspection area. You have to remember that we were supposed to find any faults while out in the snow and rain and mud and darkness climbing under the truck. I would very much like to meet the driver who fulfills his proper pretrip once he has his license! So being in an inspection area with a hole in the floor being able to find any fault should be easy pickings. A hefty fine and a thank you come again. The scale this night is closed though and I see that the new bridge they are building on this side of the Donald Hill is coming along quite nicely. As I leave I notice it is raining and reflexively I have turned on my wipers to see. It is still 100 kilometers before I see Revelstoke and 50 kilometers before I get to the other side of Roger’s Pass. I make my way towards the pass with ease since I am empty. As I approach the pass, I have passed a few trucks who were loaded and going slowly up the hills. They become a distant memory as I survey the road and watch for wildlife, slow vehicles or accident scenes. My lights cut through the darkness with little effect so I rely on memory and sign postings of the road for a good portion of the drive. I get to the top of the pass and it is still raining and many drivers have retired for the night. It is still fairly early, with an anticipated arrival time of  11pm into Revelstoke. I start my descent from the top of the Pass and continue on with no wildlife sightings, no snow, but the constant droplets of rain that irritate my windshield and eyes since it is barely enough for my wipers to be effective and leaves more smudges than keeping the windows clean.

Revelstoke 

I’ve been away from home now for 2 nights after tonight. I approach Revelstoke and it is almost 11pm. I am scanning for my turnoff which I will face in the morning light. Mica Creek on highway 23 North. My destination leaves the road at the first intersection in Revelstoke and I pass the Commercial Fueling station of Chevron. There is a wide enough shoulder that I can safely go to sleep. I don’t have a Chevron card to use the bathroom and with no stores in the area, I need to take a leak badly so under the cover of dark, with the rain falling I step out on my truck steps, and let loose the previous few hours of coffee I have been drinking. Watching out for persons who may be walking. Bad enough to be caught taking a leak, but having my willy seen by strangers would be embarrassing enough. I jump into the back after locking the doors and lay down to sleep. My alarm is set for 7:00 am before I will leave.

Morning rises

It is morning, I have just risen. I call the shipper in Mica Creek and confirm that I will be there as quickly as I can be. There is no immediate hurry, but the desire to be home drives me to complete it quickly and efficiently. I have spoken to Terry and he seems to be a pleasant fellow. I start my drive and 10 minutes later I have no cell service. I have about 125 kilometers of the 140 to Mica Creek remaining with no service. Now if anyone is wondering, Mica Creek is a small village of BC Hydro workers. It is a community of persons who reside on a working camp site that are designated to take care of the Mica Creek Dam. I travel along the road watching for Deer, but in awe of the scenery which appears to have come out of a Photo contest. Some of the scenery is breathtaking and awe inspiring. My pictures do not do the area justice but serves to show how splendid it is. Unfortunately it is a road to nowhere and dead ends at Mica Creek before becoming a Service road for the forestry department.

Mica Creek Highway 23 North

Highway 23 North is a scenic drive that is filled with awe inspiring beauty. Full of the seasonal colors of Fall, it is a beautiful contrast set against the mountains and the lake that is nestled high above filled with ever fresh mountain springs run offs water. The whole entire scene is splendid and majestic. On this particular day it was drab, dreary and wet, but one can always tell that even in this weather the view was a majestic one that truly deserves the attention of the finest forest connoisseur.

The road itself was in surprising shape for serving only a couple of purposes, those being primarily the logging industry and BC Hydro’s Mica Creek Dam site. The village of Mica Creek is not really a village in the sense it is more of a work camp in which workers for BC Hydro reside and work.

The Dam Site 

The pickup I had was at the heart of the dam. Not at the base where the cement trucks were picking up loads, but rather at the top and on the other side of the dam. For this I had to cross the dam in the middle section. With no safety barriers it was a long ways down to the bottom. I am sure it has been crossed millions of times before, but the sight down to the bottom is not for the faint of heart.

What makes the journey even more unnerving is that in the early morning there is a dense fog that is as thick as pea soup. On this particular morning I also had to wait as maintenance workers were working on a crane basket that had been lowered 225 feet into a man made service well set into the area that I was picking up from. It had safety barriers set up around it, but it was a sight to be able to look down into the heart of a dam. not a sight that many can claim that they have seen. Nothing spectacular could be really seen except Grey walls of poured and formed concrete descending into the depths. My load that morning was to retrieve a rented Generator, a rented fuel tank and De-Watering hoses. When the crane was finished with the workers and everyone was safely back on firm ground the crane proceeded to load me. I arrived on site by 8:30am and I was out of there by 11:15. The journey back towards Revelstoke was one of relief. I was on my way back home and for me that was a huge sigh of relief to be going back home.

The Journey home

The Journey home is the easiest part of the journey. Being back in Revelstoke I jumped back onto Highway 1 and continued my trip Westwards. I made a stop in Craigellachie stopping for my coffee at the Esso truck Stop. This is the one place in the winter that I breathe a sigh of relief when I see the lights of Craigellachie. It is a comforting thought. There is an old steel bridge just before Craigellachie that has barely enough room for 2 trucks and it is akin to entering a forbidden place or leaving a place of woe and despair. It really isnt that bad, but it was the only analogy that I could think of. I grabbed my coffee to go and the clerk there saw me stuff my garbage into her garbage cans. One of my bags was clearly marked “Husky” and so she jokingly asked me how I could do that to her being in an Esso truck stop. I replied I have stuffed worse in Husky’s and we both laughed. I asked her if the newest Calendars had come out yet, but sadly they had not. Every year it has been a tradition of the Craigellachie Esso Truck Stop to publish three Calendars. One is the King of the Roads Truck calendars which my son loves. The other is a normal scenery type Calendar for the motherly and older women types and the third is the small girlie pictures Calendar which I proudly stick on my dash and proudly ogle for a few weeks after I have it. Of course a woman would disapprove of this, but hey, I am alone in the truck and it is my home when I am away.

I continue on my way passing Sicamous which is the halfway point to home. Sicamous is roughly 6 hours from Calgary and 6 hours from Vancouver. It is a popular switch point for trucking companies that rely on it for their day to day operations. Companies like Slingshot, JR Hall and Kindersley use it as a switch point. I passed through Sicamous and continued on like a bat out of hell. My load was light enough that I didn’t lose much speed over the hills. Arriving and departing small towns that lay on the Highway 1 corridor was by and large the rest of the day. Salmon Arm, Blind Bay, Sorrento, Pritchard and Chase. I arrived in Kamloops and made the climb up the big hill and went to the Petro Pass to get fuel. I also needed a Hazardous Goods document which BC Hydro forgot to send with me because the fuel tank they had me transporting was called a small MoC and it contained 2000 liters of Diesel Fuel, but was placarded for Diesel Fuel. So I could not cross the scale without this vital paperwork. A few minutes after my arrival in Kamloops I had my document, I had my fuel and I was on my way again. This time I had to cross the Kamloops scale which by and large was one of the pickiest scales in the province of BC next to Hope. I made my crossing waving at the CVSE Officer who was within, got a wave back and had the green light. So off I went up and into the Coquihalla highway also known as the 5a which was built by private investors who claimed tolls on this road for 25 years. The tolls have since been lifted and traffic has increased ten fold by trucks using this route since it shaves 45 minutes off the drive back to Hope compared to using the old Highway 1 route. after 40 minutes of driving I was coming to the Merrit Brake Check which descends 19 kilometers of mountain down into Merrit, BC. I stopped quick enough to see that my brakes worked and away I went down the hill. My jakes were keeping me at 110 which was the legal speed limit so all was good. I passed Merrit, throttle buried to the floor and continued onward. I was on a mission and nothing was going to stop me from getting home. I ran up the next hill and down the next doing this 4 more times before I came to the Hope Brake Check. This was the last downhill mountain portion before I was back in civilization. 35 kilometers of mountain to descend with 6 degree slopes in some areas and at the top of the Coquihalla there is an 8 percent grade drop for 2 kilometers. Again my jakes held back fairly decently enough that I wasn’t using braking power which ultimately on a downhill of this magnitude could result in brakes overheating leading to ultimately a runaway truck or a truck out of control. Not a good thing. In any event, I have traveled this stretch enough times to know what i could safely do and with the weight I had on, it wasn’t a difficult decision to let her go. Down and down I went until I arrived passing the outskirts of the town of Hope, BC. I had one more scale to cross and then I was home free until I reached my companies yard in Langley. I went through the scale and upon leaving the scale was hammer down all the way. I reached our Langley yard at 7:00 pm that night and promptly parked the truck for the night and jumped into my car and was off for the night. Stay tuned for the next installment of the Travels of the Trucker.

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