May 7, 2014

Big Rig Adventure

Big Rig Route: 10,402 km / 6,459 miles

DAY 1
Toronto, ON → Milton, ON → Sarnia, ON 
361 km

I love road trips but without a driver's licence, it's rare to find myself a passenger. A friend, who has been driving a tractor trailer for twenty-eight years, invited me to ride along on one of his runs (April 9 - 21). He picked me up in Toronto and we drove to the trucking yard in Milton, where we grabbed his sleeper cab and bobtailed to Molson Canada for a trailer full of beer to haul to Kent, Washington. After we would drive down through California to pick up produce to transport back to Toronto. Truckers refer to this route as "runnin' the triangle." We hit the trail at 7pm and hitched it to the post in Sarnia. 

Dedicated Truck 521

42,000 lbs of Labbat's Blue

DAY 2 
Sarnia, ON → Walcott, IA
813 km

We crossed the border and headed west across Michigan, stopping in Battle Creek for kibbles 'n' bits. After driving through Indiana and Illinois, we stopped at the Iowa 80 in Walcott. It's the largest truckstop in the world, hosting the annual Trucker's Jamboree with truck beauty contests, live music, cook-outs, and fireworks. They sell everything you need to pimp out your truck and also have a barbershop, massage clinic, dentist, and mini movie theatre. Most truckstops are now called travel centres and cater to all motorists, as before they only made money off truckers for fuel and parts.

Iowa 80: World's Largest Truckstop

DAY 3
Walcott, IA → Rapid City, SD
1260 km

We tried sleeping with the heat off last night, so it wouldn't be so noisy but woke up freezing at 5am. Oops! The contrast between the blue skies and yellow fields of Iowa, heading west on I-80, was beautiful. We stopped in Des Moines for our first showers of the trip. Truckers get free showers with their rewards card, collecting points through purchasing fuel. I broke out the flip flops as we crossed into South Dakota on I-29, and later... tried a little driving! The heat was back on for our sleepover in Rapid City.

Atlantic, Iowa

Mitchell, South Dakota

Chamberlain, South Dakota

DAY 4
Rapid City, SD → Belgrade, MT
904 km

After a breakfast buffet in Rapid City, we left South Dakota on Highway 212, kitty-cornered Wyoming, and then started across Montana. This state is so vast, and I was impressed by its ever changing landscape and climate. I love mountains! The cows were all lying down in the fields... they know their weather! We hit rain, then heavy snow from Livingston to Bozeman, but things cleared up at Belgrade where we stopped for the night. 

Spearfish, South Dakota

Highway 212, Montana

Big Timber, Montana

DAY 5
Belgrade, MT → Ellensburg, WA
904 km

We drove through Butte, birthplace of Evel Knievel, and then stopped for the best breakfast at River City Grill in Missoula before leaving Montana. After passing through the Idaho Panhandle National Forest, we parked for showers in Post Falls. Into Washington, there were expansive farmlands one after the other, before we crossed the beautiful Columbia River at sunset. We hitched it to the post in Ellensburg, with a plan to deliver the next morning. 

Butte, Montana

Montana Idaho Border

Ritzville, Washington

Columbia River, Washington

DAY 6
Ellensburg, WA → Kent, WA
170 km

It was only a two-hour drive from Ellensburg to our delivery site in Kent, but alas, we were not able to unload until the following day. This was a good time to take the mandatory 36-hour reset. We spent the day and night in the distribution parking lot and made do with vending machine goodies. While my driver napped, I traipsed around a grassy field, watched planes come and go from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and made friends with a lone Canada Goose.

Ellensburg, Washington

Cle Elum, Washington

Kent, Washington

DAY 7
Kent, WA → Medford, OR
694 km

We unloaded the beer at 9am and were on the road again at 10. Tumwater was our first stop along I-5 for kibbles and showers. From there we faxed ahead for an Oregon trucking permit. Most companies pay annual state fees, but not if they don't pass through often. In Portland, we hit rush hour passing over the pretty Willamette River and then continued south through lush farmlands (grass smells good!) with sheep, sheep, and more sheep. We slept in Medford, our last stop before California.

Portland, Oregon

Salem, Oregon

DAY 8
Medford, OR → Lodi, CA
553 km

My driver and I had a morning routine: he filled out his log book while I tidied our "little house on wheels". California is rolling hills and mountains... and warm! After a long winter in Toronto, that still wasn't over, it was great to wear a dress and sandals! We drove down the I-5, passing breathtaking Mount Shasta and true blue Lake Shasta before stopping in Corning, where we ate breakfast and got the truck washed. We continued down to Lodi and parked 521, renting a room for the night. A real bed was nice, but I did miss being in the truck, the noise and vibrations - everything!

Weed, California

Mount Shasta in Shasta National Forest, California

Shasta Lake in Mountain Gate, California

DAY 9
Lodi, CA → Salinas, CA → Bakersfield, CA
572 km

We drove west towards the coast to Salinas for pickup. Five hours and three stops later, we had 34,000 lbs of baby spinach, kale, red and green leaf lettuce, romaine, and celery loaded and ready to transport back to Canada. Reefer on... ready to roll. Heading down Highway 101, we stopped in King City for kibbles and did our first bit of night driving until we retired in Bakersfield. Although my driver often travels at night, he planned for very little on this trip, so I wouldn't miss anything!

Hollister, California

Salinas, California

Salinas, California

DAY 10
Bakersfield, CA → Fillmore, UT
904 km

I loved this last leg of California, with its rolling hills, Joshua trees, wind turbines, trains, and desert landscape. At Barstow, we hopped on the I-15 to travel up to Primm, Nevada for lunch and a wee bit of gambling before running parallel to the Vegas Strip. We were only in Arizona for half an hour, but the Virgin Mountains were a trip highlight! We drove through much of Utah in the dark before parking in Fillmore for the night. I would wait until the next day to see this state.  

Bakersfield, California

Tehachapi, California

Virgin Mountains, Arizona

I-15 through Virgin Mountains

Virgin River, Arizona

Virgin Mountains and Virgin River, Arizona


DAY 11
Fillmore, UT → Big Springs, NE
1140 km

We stopped in Nephi for breakfast before driving past the gorgeous Tintic Mountains in Provo and the Wasatch Range in Park City. On the way out west, we only travelled the northeast corner of Wyoming... now we would cross the entire state. In Evanston, we saw our one and only trailer rollover, likely caused by the driver falling asleep. The Green River Twin Tunnel was also a trip highlight, with my driver pulling his horn going through. After a quick stop in Rawlins for showers, we left Utah and drove into Nebraska under bright stars and lightning in the distance where we hitched it to the post in Big Springs.

Provo, Utah

Evanston, Wyoming

Green River, Wyoming

DAY 12
Big Springs, NE → Walcott, IA
1020 km

The end of the trip was near... so I soaked up all the warmth and beauty of Nebraska. We stopped in Wood River for our last fill-up of diesel, and then Grand Island for kibbles. The state was very dry, with most of its creeks and rivers dried up. A few drops of rain threatened, but it didn't really come down until we hit Lincoln. In Walcott, we had come full circle and parked again for the night at the Iowa 80 Truckstop.

Big Springs, Nebraska

North Platte, Nebraska

Wood River, Nebraska

Wood River, Nebraska

DAY 13
Walcott, IA → Milton, ON → Toronto, ON
1102 km

Our last day of driving... was travelled mostly in silence. After declaring a few trinkets at the border, we made it back to the trucking yard in Milton around midnight and unhitched the trailer to be taken by a city driver to Cambridge. My driver filled out his paper work while I packed up our belongings. The trip went faster than I could have ever imagined, but I've been invited to tag along again. I feel perfectly suited to the trucking lifestyle, everything that is, except the driving!

Blue River Bridge between Port Huron, Michigan and Sarnia, Ontario

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