Saturday, May 2, 2009

Trucks and Trailers and 3 a.m. Thoughts

This morning I was thinking about my treck across the northern plains North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and that damned Idaho bit.  Yes, that damned Idaho bit.  My dad described that part as where I jack-knifed the truck and trailer.  Here I am, months later, still taking offense to this a little bit.  I don't think I actually jack-knifed anything.  I will admit I was stuck on the freeway, on the downhill side of a major mountain pass in a freak snowstorm (Even the meteorologists that night said, "Oh, and see how that storm just popped up.  Didn't see that one coming, did we?" - and he got paid to make that observation.) with the trailer and my truck in a beautiful, fully-choreographed "V" on the Idaho side of the last pass of the day, so close to Washington state I could taste it.  I could not see Washington state.  The snow was so thick I couldn't see the guardrail my headlamps were almost touching.  I admit we did have to get towed out of there.  I also admit the tow truck driver was not happy towing us out ahead of the rest of the 18-wheelers behind us (He makes more money from them - he said so. $60 for us, $200 from them).  In fact, he tried not to tow us out of this situation.  He'd pulled three trucks ahead of us and was heading for the trucks behind us when the cop we'd been chatting with insisted he take us out of there first.  I appreciate the cop.  I also appreciate that my dad carries cash.  Cash is still king.  

It was the longest day of our drive.  Not only did we start out early, we had several passes we were driving through with early March snows; heavy, wet, slushy things.  And yes, to some extent I had choreographed the beautiful "v" the truck and trailer were in.  I purposely attempted to drive the truck on the "up" side (slow right lane) of a seriously sloped freeway.  My tires were attempting to turn right (on a straight road) while the slurry of snow just made the trailer dead weight slipping down into the left lane.  In this way I was "able" to drive straight...for a little while.  Add to this that I can't see much past the front end of my truck.  Stopping, hmmm, let's just start a new paragraph.  

There was no real stopping.  Okay, forward motion stopped.  But, the truck and trailer slid real slow (optical illusion slow) down into the left lane.  Yes, this is part of my choreographed effort to appear to have jack-knifed my "rig".  I hope everyone here understands my rig is a GMC Sonoma SLS Club Cab and a 4' x 8' U-Haul trailer, okay?  This ain't nothing one young lady and her dad can't handle, except we are crazy enough to do this at the end of February - and right now I don't blame the Donner Party one iota.  That day was either sun...warm the roads and windshield, put-on-your-sunglasses-and-hang-your-arm-out-the-window sun OR heavy, thick, wet, massive snowflake, can't-see-three-feet-ahead-of-you snow.

Pretty much all traffic has come to a stand still at this point on the pass, if that's possible.  The right lane looks pretty clear - as you can imagine.  There are quite a few cars and trucks hugging the left guard rail.  My trailer is thinking of giving the guard rail a little kiss.  I don't care to be getting intimate with anything except Washington State and some little floozy Idaho guardrail is not on my agenda.  There are a few amazingly well equipped vehicles passing on the right - or unbeknownst to me they have hitched a tow line onto the right guardrail to stay on that side of the freeway.  As the snow lets up a little,  I make the attempt to get out of the left lane.  I'm shooting for the right shoulder actually.  And I make it, I'll have you know.  There were just enough ruts in the snow to follow that I got my little hiney out of the way and up to the right guardrail.  And that's when I run out of ruts to follow.  My truck front end starts to slide one way and the trailer back end decides to see if it can  slide as far as the front end.  I'm not even really moving (almost).  I mean to say, my foot is not on the accelerator.  And that's my attempt at choreography.  I did pretty well.  It was nice to see the tuck and the trailer decided to cooperate (read: total exasperation).  And so we sat there and listened to books on tape - Angels and Demons, by Brown - until the cop came up and rapped on the window.  During that time about three vehicles had gone by, one being the state patrol.  I wasn't blocking anyone anymore than the truck next to me hugging the other guardrail was.  It might have just been a bad night to be driving, even though we had started this Pass at 3 pm.

So, yeah...I guess I was jack-knifed.  I should probably just get over it.  We never did finish the book.  


  1. That was much more entertaining to read than it would have been to experience, I'm guessing. I have had my share of heavy metal choroegraphy (think '71 Caddy DeVille doing a 180 and pointing the right way but on the opposite side of the road AND intersection...)

  2. you've just described a "trailer" jack knife. They teach us to increase your "tractor" speed to end that type of a knife. a light pick up (especially a Red one) and going down was doomed woman! Scares the shit outta ya when you see your trailer coming around....(I know this) The pass in Idaho you mention is a tough one under "normal" conditions!

  3. "Tractor" speed?? I don't get it. I was pulling a big 1200 pound box as if it were in sand. So, Dad was right? I did jack knife? (damn! life IS exciting)

    A Yellow truck would have been better? I'll try that "next time".


  4. Wow, great post! See, I read 'adventure' here, but then again I didn't have to experience it firsthand.

    From my point of view, nobody got hurt and your ordeal that morning makes for a very interesting true story.

    Adventure! Tally-Ho!