Last winter I convinced my editor to join me in a truck count in Roseau. For several hours we sat just south of town counting the trucks that came and went, following the occasional one to see where in town it went. If you know my editor, Mr. Steve Reynolds, you know this was more interesting than it sounds. But it was a bust because Polaris, the town's largest employer, was closed just then for its winter lay-off, so truck traffic was way off. Nevertheless, I published my findings in The Raven.
Soon after, my friend Bob Aronson called. Bob drives for Byfuglien Trucking. He had seen my story and wondered if I'd like to ride along on his daily run. Bob picks up parts for Polaris in Bagley 100 miles to the south, and is back home by mid-afternoon. "Of course!" I replied. As life whirls towards its end. it's good to be checking things off your bucket list. I imagine this list as slips of paper in an actual bucket. Mine is full to overflowing.
Bob picked me up in Wannaska on a cool and sunny March morning not long ago. I was wearing my work boots rather than my usual sneakers. I had my mug of coffee and a couple of muffins. You never know what can happen when you leave home. Do you know why they call the big trucks semis? I looked this up. It's because the trailer has wheels only at the rear. If it had wheels at the front end too, it would be a trailer, but it doesn't, so it's a semi-trailer, pulled by a tractor. But not a farm tractor, though it will have the same engine used in farm tractors. Whew! I'll call the tractor the truck from now on.
Bob's International truck looked brand new to me, but he said it was a 2011 model with over 700,000 miles on it. He keeps the truck at his home just east of Roseau. Every morning, Monday through Friday, he runs over to Polaris and picks up his empty trailer then heads for Team Industries in Bagley to pick up transmissions and differentials for Polaris's ATV products. "People ask if I don't get bored driving the same route," Bob says, "but I don't. I see something different every day." Driving semi is Bob's retirement job. After 33 years in Polaris's engineering department, Bob felt the need to keep doing something useful. Byfuglien Trucking had him shuttle trucks around Roseau for awhile before putting him on a day route, first to Detroit Lakes and now to Bagley.
I had always wondered how smooth the ride would be, after all you're sitting directly above the engine. My seat was comfortable and the cab seemed well insulated, but I did feel every bump. Bob knew all the bad bumps and slowed before we reached them. I was also aware of the powerful engine beneath my feet and was glad I had my hearing aids cranked up to catch Bob's conversation. He had grown up in my neighborhood and I learned much interesting area history. Twenty years ago we bought a piece of land that Bob's father had once owned. There was a rusty old truck body on the land and Bob told me who put it there. Bob also told me of two old bachelors who had lived one after the other in flimsy shacks on this piece of land. I did not know that. There is no trace whatsoever of those shacks.
It's a cliché that you see more from the cab of a truck. I have driven this road to Bagley many dozens of times, but today I could see the hills beyond the hills. What a pleasant way to see the world. We arrived at the loading dock before eleven. Bob opened the trailer doors and pulled a lock pin that held the gang of rear axles in place. From the cab, he was able to move the rear axles to the very back of the trailer. This made the trailer more stable for the fork lift loading the heavy pallets of transmissions onto the trailer. Twenty minutes later, Bob pulled away from the dock, closed the doors and moved the axles forward. The further forward the axles, the tighter the turning radius for the whole rig. I never thought of that before.
We drove over to the new Cenex truck stop and had lunch. Warm sunshine poured through the big south windows. On Thursdays Bob picks up print jobs for Polaris at Richards Printing in Gonvick. Today was a Thursday so Bob asked the foreman to give us a tour of the shop. They had printing machines costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I was intrigued by the obsolete machines here and there that they keep running for the odd customer who still wants things done the old way. That is so sympatico.
Bob had me back to my car by 2:15. Yes, I do love the open road. I'm willing to sleep in a hostel or even a frightening bus station if necessary, but there's nothing like my own couch when the approaching nap alert begins its gentle dinging.
|Rush hour on the Gully Road|