Cherokee, Oklahoma to Moriarty, New Mexico
(This is part one of a ten-day trucking trip through the worst winter conditions I’d ever faced. Be sure to come back for the other nine days!)
It was supposed to be an easy trip. Pick up a preloaded trailer of chicken and run it up to Grandview, Washington. Between storms. I’d be in and out before the next one hit with thousands in my pocket and several days with 2016 disappearing further into my rearview mirror.
All hopes of the new year exploding on my scene were dashed at 2am. No fireworks. No Aud Lang Syne. Instead, the new year crepted in as freezing fog, its long fingers entangling me while it engulfed my truck like tomb. Little did I know it was only a prelude of things to come.
I inched along and made my way west. After all, I did have a delivery appointment, not to mention a very short window to grab a load and escape the storm. The fog turned to rain… then sleet. I had to assume the icy mix was covering the road the same way it was slathering my windshield.
I passed car after car that had spun out into the median or onto the side of the road. Some had overturned. Trucks were rolled over onto their sides or tops, their trailers oozing precious cargo.
It’s unnerving to drive through was resembles a war zone, especially under the cover of darkness. I couldn’t help but wonder about those drivers, their families and whether they made it home to them in one piece, despite the metal carnage that sculpted the story on the highway.
The sun finally rose. The fog lifted. Oklahoma disappeared into Texas and the Lonestar State eventually yielded to the painted desert of New Mexico. I puttered along barely making it up hills. I was within a few pounds of being overweight. If I took on more than twenty five gallons of fuel at a time, I could not legally drive on any road in America. So I stopped often to get my little bit of petro, a very time consuming task.
By the time I stopped for the day in Moriarty, New Mexico, I was already exhausted and behind schedule. Tomorrow I would start up into the lower Rockies and I knew I would not make good time at all. There was nothing I could do, so I got ready for bed and settled down for the night.
Suddenly, I received an alarm. My refrigerated unit (Reefer) on my trailer had shut down. The chicken was going to melt. I got dressed and jammed my bare feet into my boots. Quickly lacing them, I grabbed a flashlight and bolted out of the truck, hardly noticing that it had begun to snow. For the next thirty minutes, I troubleshot. I ran through scenario after scenario. My heart sank when I finally discovered the cause of the problem. When the chicken plant loaded and sealed the trailer, they had not hooked one of the doors. It was my responsibility to check that and I had just missed it during my inspection.
Fortunately, the alarm was overridden remotely by computer and we got the refrigerator running again. My company decided to not unseal the trailer in order to close the door because the load was intact even with the door slightly ajar at the top. But, I would be paying about $30 a day in fuel just to keep it running this way. It was a very costly mistake on my part. One doesn’t make that mistake very often.
Two hours later, my head hit the pillow again, though rest would not come. My mind vacillated between the open door I’d bundled, and the fact that I was behind schedule, and closer to not being able to get back out of Washington.
I prayed and somewhere in the darkness my troubled soul yielded to the Sandman.
(Be sure to come back to see part 2 of the Apocalypse.)