The hidden years in Canada 67, snailboys

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Saturday 20 June 07:23

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Snailboys

It took much longer than usual before we reached Brooks and honestly I was glad I could stop there. Once started, it was no different than driving without a trailer but without noticing it I had been steering and it was only after a while that the words of Kiwi came back to mind. ‘Let the truck to find its own path, you just need to correct it a bit, you can not fight the whole day with 10 to 15 tons. ‘It was a psychological thing, the awareness of the combination and the weight pushing it made you quite tense. You had to keep your head at the gears when you climbed a slope, the enormous over power of the truck had melted like snow in the sun when the gravitational pull went slowing the truck down. I started to get heavy suspicion that the truck was not designed to pull a trailer up the mountains. The engine worked and growled like mad and when switching gears at times, a cloud bluish black diesel fumes came from the  exhaust. Trucks or heavy machinery do that, they are adjusted to the kind of work they have to do. Where they are ‘clean’ driving on flat roads, they throw out soot clouds as they are put under heavy load on the rise.

I had wanted Kiwi right next to me and telling me if I did something wrong. But I knew there were only so many ways to shift gears and you could only take a head start on the mountain that was to come by taking a run down hill before the reverse power went to work and only if you knew what was on the other side of the summit. If you would quickly go over the top and there was a steep drop than the weight would start pushing. The perspiration formed on my forehead while I tried to keep talking to Rico to ease my anxiety, who seemed very relaxed and stared out to appreciate the views. Kiwi was my inner voice ‘ go up with the same roar as you go down,’ he had once said in a not so distant past. He meant that you  had to brake almost in the same gear on the engine. With a long descent you can not continuously  reduce your speed with your brakes, they overheat and don’t work anymore. You should also ensure your engine would not stall on you because then you would be getting in the mash. I heard Kiwi tell me again in my head, if your engine fails then you’ve got no more air brakes, I understood him only now. It had become a very serious necessity. We knew the road fortunately enough and I understood now why I had seen these trucks often painfully slow passing a car with many a car behind them.

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They did not want their speed reduced and end up in an endless mess of switching gears. I suddenly understood a lot of what had never even occurred to me. ‘We'll be fine,’ said Rico, 'a bit slower than usual, but you hardly notice the trailer. ‘ ‘Yes, it is not too bad,’ I kept myself big, with my toes bent in my boots. I had noticed that when you came out of the lee of the mountain that you often got a huge upsurge of crosswinds. The motive power of a combination  is on the truck part, which therefor is less affected by it, the wheels almost stuck to the road, but the trailer behind you, is a wind catching ballast. After a number of times to have had a significant sideways thrust, which as a result would give the trailer a jolt, you learned to participate on it, a tap on the air brake made the combination dive, nose down and pulled everything back in one straight track. Meanwhile you floored the accelerator

‘Do we stop for coffee,’ Rico shouted over the roaring engine? ‘I could do with one.’ I could as well’, I thought, 'Yeah, ‘I replied,’ I suppose so. ‘ I'd have preferred to leave the lorry there and hitch a ride back to Calgary. Very cautiously  seeking our way through gear combinations  we cruised the parking lot and I realized that I needed to park it somewhere where we could easily get back out. That was quite a distance away from the door of Norma Jeanne's because logically folk would all park as close as possible. I pulled the monster alongside an Arctic's, the  longest truck allowed on Canadian roads, with its total length of 18 meters. We were only a meter or 6 shorter, I realized, the length of a large passenger car.’ Phew,’ the escaping air sounded when the engine was switched off and I thought, 'so far so good’. We walked away from the truck and I turned around to have the feel of  magic of the road again, I was proud that the combination was standing there and I had put it there, it stood in a straight track ready to go when we were ready. As many wheels as the great Arctic, twelve, I felt very grown up.

San Daniel 2015

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