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Saturday, September 29, 2012

WHEELESS IN THE BUSH and 43 Degrees Below 0!
Great story by and thanks to Bill Weatherstone, a Canadian driver for over 50 years. You had to be prepared back then. There were no cell phones! He has many more great stories about his years on the road at his website,, which you can link to below!

1979, --- First week in February. Northern Ontario. I was on a milk run at the time. Had 44 customer stops in 4 1/2 days, covering 2600 miles. I had a little Mack, and it was just a day cab, (no sleeper) I had to get a room for 3 separate nights on the trip. The run was the same each week, so stayed at the same motels every trip. This particular trip, I finished up my day and was staying over in Hearst, Ontario. I would have to get up at 02:30 am. Eat get the truck running, then take off by 03:30am. To be at my first call in Long Lac. Long Lac was the next town down the line. Separated from Hearst by 132 miles of bush, snow and moose attacks.
I had the engine block heater plugged in, and I had a new Hot Box installed that trip. It was exceptionally cold that morning. Got up, went out and fired up the Hot Box, and made sure the block heater was still getting hydro. By the time I got showered and ready, I went out and started the old girl up. It was grunting and groaning, but started OK. A couple guy's were out there trying to get going, but did not have any luck. To cold, was about 43 degrees below zero, F. Had a quick coffee & toast, and was ready to take off. If you hustle, and run steady, it is about a 3 hour run, to Long Lac.
Well I knew it was going to be a pain in the butt trip, when I let the clutch out to get going, and found all the brake shoes were frozen to the drums. Other drivers were out with a hammer banging on the slack adjusters and brake cams, and getting nowhere. I had a rack trailer and carried all kinds of survival gear. I also had a tiger torch. ( a propane flame thrower ) I fired up the torch and had a flame about 3 feet. I held it to each drum for about a minute each and the brake shoes snapped free. I was rolling in about 10 minutes. I helped free up the driver parked next to me, as well. After all his pounding, and getting nowhere, he willingly bought the coffees.
I took off west bound, and was scraping frost off the inside of the windshield, as I was driving. (really cold) I had alcohol in the fuel, a heated, fuel, water separator. I wasn't to worried about the fuel jelling up on me. About an hour and a half down the line, I could see some dim clearance lights ahead. As I got closer, they were stopped in the middle of the road. That was the first vehicle I had seen on the road, so far. I got stopped and walked up to this cab over Peterbuilt. The engine was running and blowing white smoke and seemed to be slowing down, to a bare idle. I banged on the door, and a guy in a light spring jacket opened up. He was almost frozen to death. He was from California, and had delivered a load of produce to Timmins, and this was his first trip to Canada. He was on his way to pick up a load of paper from Nipigon, to take back to California.
He had been there for about 7 hours, and I was the first one to come along. He was in deep trouble. First, a wheel bearing on the trailer dried up and collapsed, the duals pulled away and ran into, and over the snow bank, leaving the axle on the ground. His fan clutch on the engine was air controlled, and froze up in the locked on position, blowing cold air over the engine and dropping the water temperature to well below 100 degrees F. The heat gauge would not even register. He had his bedding wrapped around him to try and keep warm. Finally by this time, the engine was almost stopped, the fuel was starting to freeze up. I would hate to think what would happen to him in another couple hours.
Well first, i got him in my cab to get warmed up. I always carry an old hydro parka in case I have to work on the truck. I gave that to him as well as 2 pr. wool work socks. I also carried a spare toque, that my wife made for me. I left him to warm up. I grabbed a jug of Menthol Hydrate, and dumped it in his fuel tank. I got the RPM up slowly as the alcohol burned it's way through the filter. Then I got to the compressor and disconnected the air line, and poured a pint of menthol Hydrate into the line. It started to burn its way through the air system. It wasn't to long before the engine fan finally cut out, and the heat started to rise. After awhile the fuel started flowing full again, and with the heat coming up, I started to lower the cab back to the down position. I had a hard time getting it up, then the fluid was so cold it would not return to the jack. Next get out the tiger torch, fire it up again, and heat up the cab jack enough to let the oil flow again. Got it down and locked, OK.
Had a piece of scrap tarp in my trailer, got it out and fitted it over the front of the radiator and down over the bumper to the front axle. (using it as a wind break for the oil pan.)
Meanwhile, the driver is starting to warm up, and was going to help me, I made him stay put. He was only wearing penny loafers, and could freeze his feet in no time. Well we got everything going again, and even his heater was throwing out some warm air.
Next, I climbed into my trailer and retrieved a chain about 8 ft. long. I carry about 20 to 25 chains and traps to secure the equipment that I pick up and deliver. I got the chain and hooked the one end to the cross members under his floor. I took my hydraulic jack and jacked up the axle till it was level with the other end and wheels. Then took and wrapped the chain around the axle and hooked that end up to the floor cross member also. Giving it the peg leg look.
One more chore to do. How do I get the set of duals back on his truck. It took a little extra thought this time. I ended up hooking up 4 chains end to end, and hooked on to wheels and anchored the other end to my tow hooks on the front of the tractor. I dragged them back from the ditch side of the snow bank, to the top of the snow bank. ( about 6 ft. off the ground.) By this time he was pretty well functional again. I got him to back up to the snow bank with his back doors open. Then we both climbed up and pushed the wheels down into the back of the trailer. He pulled ahead and closed the doors, and we were ready to roll. He was some shookup, and could not believe it.
He went ahead and I followed behind, keeping an eye on the rear trailer axle. It cleared the ground with no problem and made it into Long Lac. There was a garage there that works on logging trucks, so his repairs were nothing they couldn't handle.
I retrieved my chain and left him the old parka, so he would have it a little warmer during his first trip to Canada. Well I told him that it was time to settle up. I think that he had visions of a couple thousand dollars. When I told him the hotel restaurant was open, and that I was starving after all that work, he was going to have to spring for breakfast. I had quite a hard time trying to convince him that was my price. I thought he was going to kiss me. Good thing for him that he didn't. All in all, I lost about 3 hrs. and still, just barely, I made my pick up on time.
Bill Weatherstone
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