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Life on the Road
After a recent cross Canada trip to deliver a truck to a customer, I got to thinking about life on the road. It poses the question – love it or hate it? Ask 20 people and you will get 20 different answers!
Many of us in the hydrovac industry have to travel for work. It may be traveling from home and over great distances to your posted work location. It might be traveling from your shop to a remote work location or being gone for weeks at a time with many short travels between jobs. Travel is travel and every trip is different. We all see the good, the bad and the ugly when on the road!
I will kick it off with a short story about one of the worst trips I remember having.
Although I cannot remember the exact year, I do remember the details as if it were yesterday. It was around ’95 or ’96 and definitely in the dead of winter. We had been working up in the Slave Lake area of Alberta for about 2 weeks and received word that we were coming home at the end of the day once we finished the job.
Working late to finish up, we didn’t leave site until about 7 pm. As usual, the roads were bad and travel home was slow. About a half hour south of Slave Lake we were stuck in a long line of cars as the highway was closed due to an accident. It was 10 pm or so and the dreaded ring on the phone showing the dispatch number comes in. That can’t be good news.
Sure enough, I am now trying to turn around on a single lane highway in a traffic jam to head for the Trout Mountain area north of Red Earth Creek. Good for me. Directions were sketchy as usual. We were trying to find a camp in the middle of nowhere and in the middle of the night. The plan was to meet the consultant in the parking lot at 7 am and he would lead us to the job site. Sounds simple right? Not so much.
I took a wrong turn near Peerless Lake and ended up miles from where I was supposed to be. It was past midnight and I could see headlights coming my way. Hopping out of the truck to flag the car down was a shot in the dark. I managed to find a carload of teenagers that didn’t know where they were, let alone how to give me directions out! I had better luck with the second car. A nice couple coming home from bingo were able to get me back onto the proper road and headed in the right direction.
“About 2 more hours up the road we found the camp that we were supposed to be and met our consultant. His first and only words were, “Toss the jewelry on boys.” Damn.”
A couple more hours up the road and we found a camp. Not the right one, but I needed sleep so we parked and went in to see if anyone was awake. Not a soul! We managed to find empty rooms and crashed for a couple hours. When we woke up, we went to the kitchen and the cook gladly made us a quick snack and packed a lunch before sending us on our way. He said it was our secret and we were out of there before anyone even knew we were there! About 2 more hours up the road we found the camp that we were supposed to be and met our consultant. His first and only words were, “Toss the jewelry on boys.” Damn.
“I had managed to run for two weeks without the need for chains and was about to find out that ‘someone’ had decided they needed my chains more than I did and left me with their broken ones.”
Now, anyone that knows me, knows that my rig was always well equipped and ready to go. Unfortunately, my coworkers knew this too.
I had managed to run for two weeks without the need for chains and was about to find out that ‘someone’ had decided they needed my chains more than I did and left me with their broken ones. My bad for not checking, but who the heck checks their chains when they KNOW they are good and still hanging right where you left them? I guess I should have. After a couple hours of rooting through toolboxes, with the help of the mechanics shed at the camp and a few truckers, we had the chains fixed and on the truck. Off we go!
Now, I am sure you can all see where this story is going, so here are just a few highlights to really paint the picture of what my next few days entailed.
2 more hours of driving through conditions that really did not require chains. Being left at a wellhead with no one around for miles and no directions to the camp we were actually staying at. 10 hours of work later and we find the camp only to discover we’ve missed dinner, the kitchen was closed and the hot water tank was out so a nice cold shower was the perfect end to the day.
Oh wait, no it wasn’t! This camp didn’t supply bedding! So, a few nights of sleeping on a cot in my coveralls was a special treat. Toss in the fact that while running the boiler for a few hours to warm the water in the tank, my banjo filter became clogged with the scum and the pump became starved of water. The flow slows down, the boiler kicks out and bam! Frozen system. I had set my alarm for a couple hours so I could go out to shut things down and winterize only to find a frozen truck. A few hours with the tiger torch and I finally get things flowing again. Just in time to head to work without breakfast.
It didn’t really get much better from there and I was never happier to head home once were done. Every bad experience is a learning opportunity and believe me, I learned a lot on that trip! It was fairly early in my hydrovaccing career, so those lessons although hard, proved to be very valuable and I know many of you have learned the hard way too. This is what makes or breaks us and we are stronger for it. So, always pass your knowledge on to those who are willing to learn from it!
Let’s hear from you, Nation! Tell us the good, bad and ugly. We can all have a laugh, shed a tear and enjoy the little things that makes us what we are. A Brotherhood!
Please send your submissions to: [email protected]. Include your name, number of years in the industry, location, the company you work for and job title.
Until next time, stay in the Muck!