Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I work construction, or to be more accurate now I work a desk in construction.

but happily this has not always been so. I used to get out and pull the sticks so to speak.

So here it is the winter of 93 and being Canada its not exactly the busy season. We got an opportunity to rent out a bulldozer for a month in February and we jumped at it, the trick being it had to be delivered to far northern Ontario, 60 miles past where the asphalt ends. Being 25 and obviously invincible I agreed to deliver the bull dozer with my brother driving double with me being the more experienced of the two. We load up and hit the road and right from the beginning things go wrong, my brother is at the wheel giving it down the highway when we come to a controlled intersection and the light is red, being relatively new to driving and the brakes needing work he applies them too late, he is my older brother so he doesn't take criticism from me very well so I wait to say anything ND when I finally do he tells me we aren't going to stop and we are going through red light or no red light. Relatively calm I tell him to switch lanes and hit the horn announcing we are coming through whether they like it or not, I will give the boy credit he switched lanes very well calmly and in control then he did something I will never forget. He pushed the little electric horn in the centre of the steering wheel. There we were bearing down on a highway intersection with 40 tons of truck unable to stop and we sound like a fucking Toyota. I look across the cab at him and say no the fucking airhorn he quickly grabs the cord and the air horn comes on making us sound like a runaway freight train, which technically we are, and he does a pretty good job of driving sliding us through the intersection perfectly between cars and we come through untouched. He has a white knuckled death grip on the steering wheel staring straight ahead but his voice remarkably even asks what now? Well my answer is a rather cavalier "threes no point stopping now" and off we roll down the Trans Canada Highway. The rest of that day is spent relatively easily and no more major incidents occur, but I learned to absolutely abhor my brothers driving.

We cover about 400 miles that day pulling off in Sioux lookout Ontario for a well deserved sleep in a hotel room. With of course the prerequisite stop in the bar

the rest of the story needs some explaining. By this time I had been driving a semi off and on for 5 years but that in no way prepared me or the joys of what is euphamisticaly called an all season road. An all season road is a 24 foot wide strip of gravel laid across the northern tundra. And the person we were delivering for had been told to tell us to take wheel chains but he hadn't bothered to tell us and wheel chains are just not a part of our normal equipment.

so anyways the next morning bright and early we start out of Sioux lookout heading for the mining camp. The first few hours go relatively okay the weather is a bit crappy but we still have asphalt under us and wide open roads. Then two words that still send shivers up my spine, Pickle Lake! Pickle Lake is where the asphalt ends and the "all season" road begins, we stopped for lunch and fuel as their is literally nothing when you pass through this town. Not a restaurant, not a hotel and not even a single house. You are completely alone. But hey no one told us this! Nothing I like more than flying blind.

we start out of pickle lake down the all season road and for the first 15 miles things go relatively well I'm driving and of course I have complete confidence about my own driving. And then a small yellow sign announces "Bailey Bridge Ahead 300M" here's me thinking its very odd we haven't seen a single house in 15 miles and they went ahead and named the bridge not exactly the greatest honour to old mister Bailey but what ever. threes a blind curve ahead and hating going in blind I slow down, was the best decision I ever made. A Bailey bridge is a metal bridge with 4 foot high metal sides but the scary thing is they are only 1 car wide. The fucking road is 2 cars wide with 1 car wide bridges, thank god there was no one coming because we did not have a chance we took that bridge with the brakes all on with me giving the death stare to the blind curve on the other side of the bridge praying that no one rounds the curve ahead because if they do we are dead. needless to say we survived but the next time we seen a Bailey bridge sign believe me I gave it some respect.

anyways we get about 40 miles north of the middle of nowhere on the all season road and believe it or not we turn off! That's right despite what I have told you threes worse things than an all season road! The mine road wasn't a road at all but merely frozen ground and snow flattened down by dragging used giant mining truck tires across the ground to make it smooth. I very quickly longed for the all season road, as in comparison it was 2 lanes of well groomed heaven. We are 40 miles from town and 20 miles from camp and nothing in between. This was the only way into camp and it was obviously fairly well traveled so we pressed on.

soon I longed for the beauty and majesty of a Bailey bridge as after descending a long steep slope comprised entirely of snow and ice and maybe 100 feet from the bottom of the gorge a sign magically appeared in the bush "use bridge at own risk" FUUUUCKKKKKKKKK Its way past the point where I can choose to use it or not so I looked straight ahead and let that pony run. Straight over the little wooden bridge that for all appearances was made out of 2x4s. Another death defying stunt over I begin to go about the serious job of driving the truck.

We barely crawl over the next hill propelled mostly by inertia from the previous steep grade and down the next valley when things go seriously wrong. The truck's fuel filter had become plugged and though it still ran and sounded relatively good it had absolutely no power. We did not make it up the next hill atleast not the first time!

there we are stuck on the side of a hill with a defective truck in the absolute butt fuck middle of nowhere. Still not panicking though after all I am invincible. Sitting there really isn't an option so my brother gets out and goes to look to see what is on the other side of the hill I carefully slip the truck into 1st gear hoping to inch it to the crest. Big mistake and I mean BIG mistake! On the plus side I was no longer stuck on the side of a hill but on the bad side I was now sliding backwards out of control down a hill. I set the parking brakes on full, open the door and begin looking for a good place to jump. Having not seen a good place and resolved myself to a broken leg or an arm I was about to jump when suddenly and unexpectedly the truck snapped to a stop. YESSSSSS someone up there likes me. And miracle of miracles my brother yells threes help coming !!!!!! woo hoo providence is smiling on me. A machine comes over the hill only too happy to help but he only has a crappy little chain it doesn't look very strong but we need his and ours yada yada yada we get everything hooked up. I get in the drivers seat and he gets in his machine and we try to pull the truck, he doesn't have enough straight forward torque to power me up the hill so he gets the bright idea to jerk the truck by backing off and jamming forward. It was about the 3rd tug when with perfect clarity I can see the chain break and I have just enough time to throw my arms up infront of my face before I will be eating the chain. The good news the radiator intercepted the chain, the bad news the radiator intercepted the chain. So now we are stuck on the side of a hill in butt fuck middle of nowhere with a defective truck and a hole in the radiator pissing out all the antifreeze could this day get anybetter!

I will skip all the boring parts and tell you we finally got into the mining camp its been a 12 hour struggle to come 200 miles and what do I have to look forward too. A FUCKING TENT its minus 30 and I will be sleeping in a canvas tent! I think I prayed for death but I survived a very long chilly night in a canvas tent in the middle of northern Ontario in january. The next morning I awoke in a surprisingly good if somewhat apprehensive mood. All we had to do was unload the cat and make it the 60 miles back to pickle lake and hopefully get things squared away.

we took a pair of pliers squeezed the leaking radiator tubes together as best we could and poured a can of pepper into the radiator and topped it up with antifreeze. Just before you ask pepper is the greatest radiator sealant you will ever find, forget the commercial treatment pepper works much better. Estimating that with out the added weight of the bulldozer, the truck would be able to make it back to pickle lake where we could get another filter. How wrong we were

we made it off the mining camp road and halfway back to pickle lake when the truck once more became stuck on the side of a hill. Oh joy please shoot me

truckers are amazingly friendly people especially in the middle of nowhere, 4 of them stopped to help us and spent 2 or three hours trying to get us off that hill. We didn't succeed but I never appreciated 4 guys more in my life and they gave us a ride into pickle lake it was after 10 at night so there was nothing we could do but go to sleep and try to get some help the next day but thank Christ it was in a bed in a hotel!

the next day we got a tow truck and got the truck off the side of the hill but with out any new filters we were just as stuck as before. So the tow truck driver only charged us 500 dollars and gave us a ride back to town to find filters. It took most of the day to find those filters and the guy sold them to us at only 3 times what they cost him( for every person you find will help you with out any hesitation threes atleast one crook looking to capitalize). We hitched a ride out to our truck just before we got to the truck what do we find but another truck stuck sideways across the hill fully loaded with a 25 ton excavator on the same hill we had been stuck on we got out of the truck and walked the half mile across the valley to our own truck to change our fuel filters. Twenty minutes later were once again road warriors

problem! Only if you think a 25 truck jacknifed across the only road to town a problem. Oh by the way its only about 10 at night and pitch black. We flame up the truck give a few test pumps of the throttle happy with its response and try to figure out how to clear this next hurdle. Now let me explain I am a fair to middling truck driver but my brother is an excellent excavator operator so he goes to see what he can do. Cause I don't really know what he did wont go into details but he unloaded it for them, pulled their bacon out of the fire and got them off the side of the hill with nothing but a bit of a scratch from a tree branch

Anyways he flashes me the high sign and I start that truck across the valley giving it everything it had and it had plenty we are all on the top of the hill all happy and all safe. Every one shakes hands makes sure things are stowed away and tied down and basically being comrades. There is a convoy of about 3 semis and 2 pickups all headed to pickle lake. Finally after 3 days the truck is running right we are headed home everything is coming up roses right? WRONG

its now a bright moonlit night the truck is purring and nothing but open road ahead of us. I let out the clutch start working my way through the 10 gears and finally I lay the hammer down and we are doing 60 in a peaceful moonlit beautiful northern night. Then the headlights went out, its almost midnight in the middle of nowhere northern Ontario and we have no headlights! We pull over but there is no obvious problems we are at a loss but we have had our fill its been almost three days to go 120 miles. I say fuck it we make the trip into pickle lake with the head lights coming on and off as randomly as any strobe light and parked the truck in the hotel parking lot. went to the bar had one beer, I think it took longer for the bar tender to get my change then it took me to drink it.

we retired for the night I awoke at 3 am and started the truck checked it out kicked the tires went back to the room. My brother was awake and getting dressed we looked at each other we didn't even need to say anything we just packed up and left after fiddling the brakes alittle.

this was the final day and for once it went off like clock work , we were both in such foul moods we didn't stop until we needed fuel and we made it all the way home in a single day. It took me months before I could really talk about it and years before I could laugh about it but now its one of my favourite stories though it takes forever to tell it properly

PS this story is completely true infact I left some thing out so you didn't think I was exaggerating

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