I spent a couple of hours in Pocatello, ID this morning trying to drive the front axle of the Chevy pickup truck onto my upper deck. I have a 26" drop so it wasn't easy. I was at a CAT dealer so they had all kind of dunnage but you need a LOT of dunnage to build a bridge to a 26" high upper deck. When the ramp was done it took me a couple of attempts to do it right: the truck drove on great when I switched on its 4x4 drive in the lowest possible gear. I love this Chevy! With a crew cab it is quite long: 20 ft from bumper to bumper and 16 ft from the front bumper to the rear axle.
Once that was done, I had to put all the dunnage back into the CAT's yard and started working on my Pickup #2. It was an old Ford F-650 service truck - one of those that do service calls and can fix all kind of mechanical problems. This one was 24 ft long from bumper to bumper but only 16 ft from the front bumper to the rear axle.
So, I moved the Chevy all the way to the front - till its lower frame almost touched the deck - and then used the CAT's ramps to load the Ford. The yard was all crowded with heavy equipment so I had to load the truck from the side of the ramp. Which didn't leave much room for maneuvering. The dock was too high too, so I had to use some heavy metal plates as ramps from the dock to the rear of my trailer.
When everything was done, I was so tired I couldn't throw the 10 ft long steel plate off my trailer: it just didn't want to go in the right direction. It weighed probably 150-200 lbs and was about an inch thick. I managed to get rid of it by moving the truck a couple of feet ahead and when the freaking plate was ready to fall and crack all my trailer lights I stopped, ran back and threw it on the ground.
I put 4 chains on the Ford and 4 were on the Chevy and I had to be extremely careful not to damage the oil and brake lines on the rear axles of these vehicles with my chains. It happened to me once when I worked as tow truck driver, so I still remember the lesson: don't mess with brake lines that go around the rear axle
Anyway, all chains were finally in position after 4 hours at the CAT. I then had a quick brunch and headed east on 86 and then north on 15 towards Montana. My destination is a mine in Kapuskasing, ON some 1800 miles away.
The weather was sunny and above freezing so I decided to follow my TRUCKING (!) GPS advice and take 20 east and then 191 north into Montana. This mistake cost me 3 hours and lots of nerves as I cruised on snow and ice covered roads inside the Yellowstone National park at 30 (!) miles per hour. It took forever. I couldn't believe there was so much snow everywhere up in the hills. AND there was no salt on the road. I did see a few snowplows but the condition of the highway was awful.
Anyway, I left the CAT in Pocatello at 1 pm local time and I hit I-90 in Boseman only around 7. I only stopped once for 15 minutes to grab some coffee in West Yellowstone MT, at the junction of 20, 287 and 191. All the rest of the time I was busy watching for ice and snow on the road and trying to avoid getting in a ditch.
I shut down at a small truck stop in Levingston, MT. Life should be a bit easier tomorrow as I will be driving on interstates only
My goal for today was to get out of Montana. It's my favorite state, but you can take only so much of ice, snow and scary hills. So now I'm at Beach, North Dakota (x. 1 off I-94) but Montana did threw a parting curve ball at me. It was 38F in Levingston when I woke up. By the time I reached Billings, the temperature dropped to 15F and most van trailers at the truck stop had their rear doors covered with 2 inches of snow. But I-90 and 94 were still in pretty good shape. Fastforward a few hours, and only one lane is clear, while the other is all snow and ice. In Glendale, 30 minutes west of the North Dakota's border, my thermometer dropped all the way to 0F and by the time I parked for the night in Beach, ND, my thermometer fell to -5F. The restaurant at this Flying J is closed for renovations so I settled next to a decent 57" Samsung LCD TV and am now watching the adventures of Doctor Jones (Harrison Ford) and his cronies who chase after an alian crystal skull.
I drained everything from the fuel filter/water separator on the night before and then got up at 4 am to start the engine. I was concerned I'd have problems because of the freezing -5F temperatures. To my surprise, the truck started from half a turn, and then I went back to bed to wait till it was daylight. I got behind the wheel around 7 am and headed east on I-94. The roads cleared after I was out of the hills around MM 50 in ND, but I still saw a pickup truck with a horse trailer in the ditch on the opposite side. It was lying on its side and the driver was standing on the top holding his cell phone to the ear. My first stop was in Mandan, ND (exit 147) where I had a quick breakfast in the restaurant. It's 1200 miles to my destination and I plan to hit Minnesota sometime later today.
Anyone heard of the Federal Form MCS-90? I've been trucking across the border since 2005 and was not aware that I needed one. They finally caught me today at a scale east of Fargo, ND as I was heading towards Canada. I went through the scale with my 26,000 lb load and the sign directed me to park and bring in all the paperwork. The officer checked everything, including proof of insurance, medical certificate, truck/trailer inspection and then she said, "I don't see Form MCS-90...". In the driver examination report she called it 'proof of financial responsibility'. I called our after hours people but all they had were copies of the regular insurance paperwork, that I already have in the binder DOT let me go but issued the written "warning" which of course is the same as a ticket. I asked her why I was getting the warning and not the Landstar and she said the computer didn't give her a choice of issuing the violation ticket to a carrier. How is it my fault? I have no idea. I asked her to give me a ticket instead of the b/s "warning" but she said it could be "way more than 500 bucks". So, I took the warning. Gotta love CSA.
Landstar was as surprised as I was to learn about this mysterious MCS-90. Some guy from Safety responded to my email and said he'd be looking into it. I don't think any of their trucks have this form onboard.
I crossed into Canada in Fort Francis, ON and shut down a couple of hours east of Thunder Bay, in the town called Geraldon. I looked at my overhead thermometer to decide if I should keep the engine running. It was -24C or -11F. The day before the truck started fine at -18C so I figured this shouldn't be a problem. I shut the truck down and slept comfortably with my Webasto on. But when I tried to start the truck at 6:45 am on the next morning, the starter ... wouldn't turn. I knew my battery was fully charged the day before and I hardly used any power overnight (I even watched a DVD on my laptop without plugging it in). I tried one more time and then went inside the Husky truck stop to ask for a phone number of a local towing company. The clerk behind the counter surprised me by saying it was actually -33F or -36C (!) at that moment because the temperature fell dramatically overnight. No wonder I had trouble. The towing company showed up an hour later and we: 1) hooked the cables from their pickup truck to my battery; 2) plugged the truck into a power outlet at the truckstop (they charged 10 bucks, but at least the tow guy had very long cables); 3) stuck a propane heater (no direct flame) under the oil pan of the engine. 5 hours and $350 later my CAT came to life.