One Step Forward and Two Steps Back
(the truckers Waltz)

Chapter 11

A Bad Night

Steve James left the terminal at 0130m after getting his switch trailer and doing his pre-trip, it hadn’t taken long, because it was one of the new trailers, and every thing was good.

Just before he left, he stopped and admired his outfit parked under the big lights in the yard; it stood there shining like a jewel. The L.E.D. clearance lights on the side and top of the tractor were reflected on the shiny yellow paint. Steve had changed the lights on the front bumper to his own design so the other regular drivers could identify it as his tractor. The trailer with its shiny aluminum sides and L.E.D. light made this picture complete.

Steve thought, ‘its almost to pretty to take out on the highway, but it is a working truck.’ As he pulled through town the streetlights glistened on the dash like stars as he sat proudly, behind the wheel of his and Roses bright yellow truck in a light snowstorm.

The company had given him the same haul as he had as a company driver, but only twice a week plus another one, 200 hundred miles farther North, so he could get in his maximum hours each week. This morning he was on the short end and would be home tonight.

When he got about fifty miles north of town it had started to snow and every time he met another vehicle, he would drive into a snowy abyss, momentarily losing the road. He was expecting this and read the road ahead and knew all he had to do was keep the steering wheel straight until he picked up the shoulder or the yellow centerline on the road.

The same principle applied when you met someone on a corner, but it was a little trickier, you only hoped the driver of the on coming vehicle had enough sense to slow down because he would have the same problem as you, you still wanted to be aware of where the road went when you met him.

Inexperienced drivers have a tendency to drive to the center of the road in these conditions for fear of driving into the ditch; this can be very dangerous if there is another vehicle following to close behind the one you just met. Steve had lost a good friend under these circumstances.

Steve stopped a hundred miles out of town in a wide spot, checked the reefer temperatures, his tires, and had a nature call, then cleaned of the lights on the back of the trailer. He got his yellow lens for his big lights out of the jockey box and put then on, it cut down the range of the big lights and it made it easier to find the snow banks or any tracks on the road.

He logged he the stop in his logbook, put on his yellow driving glasses and continued north into the pass. ‘I sure hope this snow lets up,’ he thought as he felt his way through what had become a full-blown blizzard, with the wind whipping the snow around to the point that it was getting hard to see.

As he started the climb up the mountain to the ski hill he flipped in the switch that would lock up his differentials and gave the big engine some more throttle. When he hit the bottom he was going a little faster than he should have been, but he knew the road and unless a swamp donkey jumped out in front of him, he would be all right. ‘That’s not likely to happen in this weather they are probably all standing under trees in the bush, in this weather,’ he said to himself, hopefully.

‘Boy this tractor handles nice under these conditions, Eddy certainly knew what he was doing when he spec'd out this sweetheart.’ Steve was thinking as he plowed his way to the top of the mountain, ‘it’s got the traction of a mountain goat.’

Just as he passed the ski hill turnoff, his radio came crackling alive, it was a voice he recognized, “Hey Steve are you out there?”

“You bet Paul, and just where might you be on a fine night like tonight?”

“I think I’m just about to the bottom of the mountain, just about to the lodge’ I think! I can’t see a damn thing out here. How far south does this blizzard go?”

“It stops blowing by the time you hit the junction, but it was still snowing pretty heavy most of the way into town.”

“Great by then my old eyeballs will be hanging on the dashboard.”

“When am I going to run out of this blizzard Paul?” Steve asked.

“It lightens up when you hit the other side of the pass and it warms up, so it’s not blowing around as much, but it is starting to pack a little so the traction isn’t that good.”

“Oh well that’s trucking in the great white north, my friend. I haven’t seen any sign of critters this morning.”

“Well that’s one good thing. I’m starting to loose you so take care, I think Bruce isn’t too far behind me,” and he faded out of radio range with a crackle, after he had started down the other side of the mountain.

Steve felt his way through the pass with a great deal of caution and although he hadn’t broken traction he knew that with temperature raising it could happen at any time. He was remembering what old Bill Ivores once told him, “If you are not sure of the road surface condition, drive as though you have a raw egg taped to the bottom of your right foot, that way you won’t be jumping on the throttle or the brake peddle.” ‘And it works,’ thought Steve, chucking to him self.

Just after he got out of the mountains into the foot hill and onto a long straight stretch he seen a truck coming, ‘It must be Bruce he thought bye the looks of the clearance lights,’ The freight outfit that Bruce hauled for used what was called ‘A’ trains they pulled two 28 foot trailer, not the most desirable out fit on the road under these conditions.

Steve picked up his mic. And called him, “Hey Bruce is that you waltzing down the road like an old lady.”

“You bet Steve, I thought that was you I seen coming at me. Some night isn’t it, I don’t have any weight in the back box and every once in a while it wants to take off on me when a gust of wind hits it.”

“Well my friend it only get worse from here, although it gets colder and the traction gets better, but you have a full blown blizzard in the pass.”

“Oh well I’m going to stop at the rock pile and get forty winks, so maybe it will blow self out by the time I get going again.”

“I hope so, I wouldn’t like to be pulling a set of those double jointed trailers on a night like this, so you keep the top side on top and the rubber on the road, I don’t want see you on your lid, when I come back this afternoon.”

“Don’t worry they haven’t got me yet and Steve watch out for the East Pine Hill, it was starting to get a little shiny.”

“You bet my friend and you take care.”

Steve trucked on through the snow and although snow had started to accumulate on the road and the temperature was hovering around the freezing mark he was making good time. He pulled into his usual stop; he filled out his log book, after checking his rig and cleaning the snow off his tail lights he went in and said hello to Jan and filled his coffee cup.

“That new truck of yours sure looked good when you pulled in here, if you change all those yellow lights to green and red ones it would look a lot more like Christmas..”

“I don’t think so Jan, because if I did I would have to admire it from a jail cell, because that is exactly were they would put me for running that many illegal colored clearance lights,” and laughed as he went out the door.

A half an hour later he stopped at the brake check at the top of the East Pine Hill, He checked his air pressure and made sure it was at 120 pounds and then he made a full brake application with the foot valve to make sure he wasn’t losing air when he did. Then he got out, to check the road surface, it was a little slippery, but not enough to concern him, so he got back in the truck, logged in the brake check and started down the hill cautiously after he had removed the yellow lens from his big driving lights.

He went down around the first corner and it wasn’t to bad, but as the road got steeper, he notice that some one had skidded their brakes, it was pure ice and when he hit the spot his Jake brake started to lock up his drivers and he was starting to jack knife.

He reached over and turned off the Jake and let his drivers start to roll again as he moved over a bit to the shoulder of the road that looked a little darker then the shiny tracks down the road, he then feathered his brakes with the foot pedal and started to slow down. He went around the next two bad corners, under control and onto the bridge. As he climbed the hill on the other side he kind of look up and softly said to him self, “Bill Ivors, the next time I see you I’m going to give you a big fat kiss.”

At that precise instant Bill Ivors woke up in his bed, from a very deep sleep, next to his wife Jeanne, at home with an over welling urge to go to the bathroom and wash out his mouth with mouthwash.

Steve drove the rest of the trip with a lit right foot, although snow was starting to lighten up there was a lot of traffic starting to move at this time of the morning and you never knew when some one would make a mistake and end up coming across the road at you.

Go to Chapter 12