March 2002

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It has been such an easy winter.  I could practically feel Spring in the air and hear it in the chirping of the birds.  I'd had bug guts on the windshield sometime last week.  Maybe that is why I was so surprised to be caught completely off guard by a nasty thunderstorm and ice storm in Omaha, NE during the first part of March.

 

I'd left home too late, as usual, and this time had not even checked the weather report.  I don't remember what my distraction had been, but it proved to be my downfall. 

 

I was to get an empty trailer from Council Bluffs, NE and take it to Dakota City, NE, where I would drop and hook.  The load I was picking up would deliver in Sunbury, PA on Monday at noon.  I arrived in Council Bluffs, IA on Friday about 8:00 PM.  My goal was only to get an empty and get up to Dakota City, NE, get the load picked up and go to bed.  I would then have all day Saturday and Sunday and even part of Monday morning to get to Sunbury.  It was 100 miles up to Dakota City, NE and about 1200 from there to Sunbury, PA.  Even though I was running a bit later than I should have, I still had something of a plan.  :)

 

Mother Nature has her own plans, though.  When I was about 25 miles away from the yard, the hail started hitting my car's windshield.  It was sticking to the road.  It suddenly became quite an ice rink.  If I hadn't been in my car and was able to do so, I would have kicked myself right in the you-know.  I knew I was in trouble.  There was no way I'd reach Dakota City, NE tonight - not with an empty trailer, anyway.

 

The hail became larger and the thunder kicked in.  I don't remember ever having seen a full out thunderstorm in winter like this before.  The lightning flashed in the sky and the winds picked up to what seemed like gale force.  I got to the truck and fired it up, knowing it would take some time for it to get remotely warm.  I sat in my car for awhile and waited for the truck to warm up as well as for the winds and rain and sleet to calm some so that I could more easily haul my stuff from car to truck.  After about half an hour, things subsided some so I got everything moved.  Once in the truck I discovered at least a 1/4 inch thick ice coating on all the glass and mirrors.  I called the Road Info line to hear, "I-29: 75 to 100% ice covered."  That's all I needed to hear:  I climbed under the warm blankets and decided to deal with it in the daylight.

 

The daylight brought some improvement, but not as much as I'd hoped.  I could see the freeway from where I was and traffic was moving, though not at normal speed.  I sighed and decided I didn't have the luxury of time to wait any longer.  I found my empty and I was off.

 

The roads in town weren't too bad.  They went from bad to worse to terrifyingly slick about 15 - 20 miles north.  As if that wasn't enough, the wind contributed with gales up to 30 mph.  When you are pulling an empty trailer, this is just about as bad as it gets.  The wind blows the trailer all over, which then slides on the ice, which then can, and often does, get the tractor jerking around.  I was fighting to stay on the road before too long.  The trailer was being blown and was sliding all over.  Trying to correct it sent the tractor into a skid.  I was correcting and correcting and praying and about ready to have a nervous breakdown.  Don't get me wrong here - I have been driving on ice and snow since I was 14, was born and raised in the stuff and have been driving a truck on it for nearly a decade.  I am somewhat of a wimp, I guess, but this was really, really bad stuff.... I was fighting to stay in control and it really was a hell of a fight. 

 

A driver behind me called out on the CB radio, "Hey there, is that the wind blowing you or are you really sliding around that much or what?"  I somehow picked up the mic and replied with some kind of "Uh, yeah" before I had to wrestle the truck again.

 

There's no doubt in my mind that there are indeed angels that watch over us at times.  Today my angels delivered me safely to the Missouri Valley truckstop with my truck and trailer in an upright position.  By the time I got in my hands were shaking and I was pretty rattled.  I'd never come so close to jackknife as I had on this day.  I had a lot of company at the truckstop - no one wanted to tackle the northbound interstate.  Most were waiting for sand trucks but the wind was making it tough for the sand to stay down.  The few that were headed north were heavily loaded. 

 

I'd done it to myself once again.  I should have gotten an earlier start and now Mother Nature had made the whole thing much worse.  I didn't leave Missouri Valley, IA until mid afternoon and wasn't out of Dakota City, NE until late afternoon/early evening on Saturday with my load for Sunbury, PA

 

I made delivery on time -- early, in fact, and headed to Lewistown, PA to pick up a 5 dropper with the following stops:

1.  Sharon, PA for 3-12 @ 8:00 AM.

 

2.  Chicago, IL for 3-13 @ 8:30 AM.

 

3.  Lake Geneva, WI for 3-13 @ 10:30 AM.

 

4.  Oak Creek, WI for 3-14 @ 8:00 AM.

 

5.  Fond du Lac, WI for 3-14 @ 11:30 AM.

 

It turned out to be a pretty easy load and the drops came off quick and mostly on time.  Drop #3 was scheduled too close to Drop #2 and was late but they weren't picky and didn't fuss.

 

From Fond du Lac, WI I deadheaded to Plover, WI and live loaded for Denver, CO.  I would only take the load as far as Council Bluffs, IA, where I would get out of the truck and go home. 

 

Unfortunately the storm system that had nailed me back in Iowa on my way out had worked its way to where I was now.  Northern Wisconsin was starting to get the sleet and ice.  As I sat in the dock door in Plover, WI, I watched the weather deteriorate and wished they'd just let me out of there.  By the time I was loaded, the sleet was coming down and the roads were icing over so I only got as far as the Plover truckstop and called it a night.

 

The next day the sun came out and the roads were good.  The trees, poles, etc still had a thick ice coating, which is beautiful and breathtaking to look at.   If you have ever been in a severe ice storm, you know that the incredible beauty can be surpassed only by the unbelievable damage they can cause.  Tree limbs and fallen poles were left as evidence.

 

The rest of the trip home was thankfully uneventful and I was soon in my car, headed home.

 

My next trip out was a load going from Council Bluffs, IA to Salt Lake City, UT.  It was a good run; the weather was great, the load came off fast and the reload was even pretty quick.  If only all trips could be so easy.

 

After delivering in SLC, I reloaded out of Hyrum, UT.  The reload delivered in York, NE and came off fast also.  Freight was very slow so I deadheaded back to Council Bluffs, IA and unbelievably, that was my week's work.

 

 

Utah, I-80, Eastbound.

 

Utah Port of Entry on I-80

 

 

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