Saturday, July 19, 2008

Shelly Fire's Guide to Commercial Vehicle Driving - Series #1

Sooooooooooooooo, yeah. Today, what a day. Last night it started raining. It was raining at a rate of 2 to 4 inches an hour, depending on the area. This went on for a few hours. Not sure how familiar you are with Kansas roads or what roads are like where you are, but this shit down here will go from gravel to black dirt to clay and back again within a one mile stretch. You may be going up a small hill that is rock solid gravel only to to get to the top and come over to find that it's 5 times the distance down and twice as steep, and made of wet clay. They sent me out today and I went to my first stop and dumped off a few hundred gallons. I damn near got stuck on the way there and figured that I was experiencing what qualifies as a "really bad road". I left and started heading to my second stop. I was going down a black top and needed to go west. All my options were gravel. I found a road that looked really good named "Frontier Church Rd." I figured' hey, it's a church road so it's probably the best maintained out of all of them. I turn on to it and it's just like a rock solid, good ole North Dakota gravel road. I drive about 3/4 mile and come up a hill. I get over the hill to find it turns into mud and gets muddier as it gets to the bottom. I slow to about 50mph and make it through just fine. I get to the top of the next hill to find that the opposite side is twice and far down, much steeper and is all clay and mud. I immediately knew I was screwed. I decided that I need to slow down as the road had a pretty good crown to it and this wasn't the kind of shit you blasted though. All high speeds would do is send you into the mucky ditch that much faster. This would be especially true for me considering the truck I'm in is only 40 feet long but has 18 wheels on the ground, weighs 33,000 lbs and has 34,000lbs of diesel and gasoline on it. I get to the bottom and the truck slows to a crawl and eventually just stops. Tires are spinning. I lock in the inter-axle differential and the wheel differential and try again. I make it maybe a few feet and it bogs down. At this point, I was almost ready to call for a wrecker. In hindsight, I probably should have. I knew there was no way to back up the hill I just came down, but thought I would give rocking it a try. I quickly discover that I could back up into my tracks and come forward with a running start an plow ahead 5 - 10 feet at a time. It was working quite well. I knew the killer was getting off the crown of the road. Any loaded truck can slide easily in that situation, but in my case I have 17 tons of liquid able to freely move side to side. The tanks widest point is approximately 8 feet off the ground. i.e. high center of gravity. One inch too far and the truck sways and 17 tons of fuel follows and sloshes back and forth, pushing and burying it into the muck. I was making good progress and had regained my optimism. At this point, I thought some pics were in order..

First, a shot of what lay ahead:




Second, a shot of what I was leaving behind:





Third, a few good tire/rut shots:






I knew I was home free if I could just get half way up the hill in front of me. Between where I was and where that spot on the hill was, though, was some serious business. The road slightly dipped before going up, making the dip almost twice as soft as the shit I was barley forging through. More troublesome was that the crown grade increased greatly once the road started to go uphill. The closer I got to it, the more physics started to sink in. Something in my was yelling "THERE IS NO WAY IT IS PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE. NOT MAYBE, NOT 1 IN A 1000, NO WAY DUMBASS. STOP WHERE YOU ARE BEFORE YOU MAKE IT WORSE." It was too late though. I had already been clouded by the feeling of premature achievement. My hopes had been dashed only to be fully regained and my stupid brain would be damned if it was going to allow prudence to interfere with its quest for the impossible dream. With Sancho Panza now riding shotgun, I arrived at the dip before the climb. I bored into the muck right up o the beginning of the incline. It was better than I had thought. I backed up about 15 feet and stopped the truck. My consciousness was now in true and total duality. I was about to take a 400 degree pizza out of the oven and stick it in my mouth. I looked at Poncho, he looked back at me and nodded. I hit the gas. I made it through my blazed path and was focusing on keeping her centered. It took to the hill and was maintaining speed. By god, it was actually going up. That logical part of me that I had been suppressing was convinced it was never going to even get traction enough to get out of the muck in the dip. But here I was, slowly but surely going up, up, up. YAYYY up, up, up, side, side, side, side, no, no, no, no. Fuck. :(







It took a large farm tractor over an hour of NON-STOP pulling to extricate me. In the process of being drug along the trees and rock filled muck, my entire left-coast mirror rigging was ripped off by the trees. The trees would bend and scrape along side of the truck until they reached my open window and would then spring into the cab, whipping me in the face and reaching clear over to the passenger window. The steel, drivers side step was also ripped off and buried in the muck along with multiple mud flaps. It took over 60 miles of 70 mph driving before enough mud kicked out to stop the truck from violently shaking.

I want to go home now.

6 comments:

pw said...

macho is the cenex guy. he's the man in the black hat and red shirt with the 100 mile stare representing the energy to give crappy roads a try with a tractor and trailer, when he really wants a rally car. Why don't they give you a garmin or something that tells you when the road sucks? I liked the story.

Eric said...

There is no technology in existence that would have been able to tell me what I was gonna find over that hill.
It wasn't so much the road as it was the 4" of rain in an hour.

Justin Fox said...

OMG....I can't even imagine trying to get that thing unstuck. Did you get any flack for the damage or anything?

Brian said...

Hey Foxy-

Recognize this crazy fellow in the pic from this article?:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24566705/

:)

Justin Fox said...

Wonder what it would have been called if I had stuck around to open it with him.

Eric said...

o flack what-so-ever. It's pretty much par for the course when you send a new guy to a new area.