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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mountain Climbing in Bear Country with a Set of Doubles


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In the 1990’s one of our customers was Big O Tires out of Denver, Co. They had a central warehouse located in Henderson, Nevada. From there; we were delivering tires to their stores in Colorado, Arizona, northern and southern California. Because they were shorthanded with drivers on vacation, I went down there for a week to help out.
I left out with a driver by the name of Chuck one afternoon on a team run. We were to pull a set of triples on the interstate from Las Vegas to Grand Junction, Co. Upon arriving, we would drop the third trailer and continue with a set of doubles on state highways down through Delta, Montrose and Cortez delivering to the stores. The trailers were each 28 feet long.
We had keys to a storage shed at each store where we could deliver their tires after hours. After helping make a store delivery late one night in Montrose, I went back in the sleeper wile my co-driver started heading for Cortez. Needless to say, being in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and nowhere near an interstate highway, we were having to proceed carefully on the two lane state highways. Chuck drove south on State Hwy 145 which was the most direct route to Cortez. Neither of us had been on that highway before and it goes right past Telluride, a quite famous ski area in Colorado.
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Being sound asleep in the berth, I woke up about 3 AM as the truck started bouncing around on some rough roads, going slower and slower. Pretty soon, I heard what sounded like gravel hitting the undercarriage and I knew we were not on a paved road. After sitting up, I opened the curtain and looked out the windshield to gaze at a very narrow gravel road that wasn’t getting any wider. I hollered to Chuck, asking “where the hell are we?”  His answer, “I think I made a wrong turn!” I then said, “well you better stop this thing because this road is getting narrower”. He stopped the truck and I got out, the first thing I saw was a sign that said “Beware of Bears”. We were on a dirt road going up a very heavily wooded mountainside. Jeez, at this point, I was pretty irate and not being very nice to poor Chuck. The road was so narrow that another vehicle wouldn’t be able to get by us and we were pulling two trailers and not able to back up! He pulled the truck forward while I guided him to the absolute edge of the roadway with just enough clearance that I thought we could squeeze our tractor and lead trailer back past the other. We then disconnected the back trailer and proceeded up the mountain praying that we could find a place to get turned around. After about a quarter mile we found a spot where the edge was fairly firm and was able to jack the trailer back and forth enough to get it turned around. We then took that trailer back down, made it past the other and dropped it, while we went back to retrieve the other and hook them back up. I’m sure we spent at least 90 minutes trying to get ourselves out of that mess!
What happened was that Chuck didn’t notice a sign as we approached Telluride telling him that he had to turn right to stay on State Hwy 145. He continued straight into and through the town on the only road that eventually ends at the top of a mountain! There is only one way out and that was to go back. As we were making our way back through town at about 4:30 AM we passed a town cop coming the other way who slammed on his brakes coming to a dead stop staring at us! I’m sure he was wondering what these two idiots were doing with a tractor and a set of doubles on a road that dead-ends at the top of a mountain. We were surprised that he didn't amuse himself by pulling us over. And no, Big O Tires does not have a store in Telluride, Colorado!
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