Just in the nick of time.

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Looks like a nice day... that gnarly wind is invisible.

The weather is getting tricky. Adam and I squeaked out of a mess just in the nick of time on this last run, but now we’re turning around and heading right back into it. I just hope things calm and clear by the time we go through again – but I’m not holding my breath. Or letting my guard down.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t snow. The roads were dry and the sky was blue. We got held up from the invisible weather danger – the wind.

Apparently Wyoming is famous for high wind warnings. There are these giant marquees set up on the roads warning drivers of wind gust speeds. 35+ mph and we need to be careful as a high-profile vehicle. Especially if we’re loaded light or empty. But 55+ mph and we’re talking rollover risk. This is what we were facing this time. Scary stuff.

I’m finding that we are going to be facing some seriously stressful situations dealing with weather, and I’m not at all surprised by that. The worst part of it all, I think, is the decision-making process. Do I continue? Is it safe? Will I make it through without incident?

The reason these decisions are so stressful is this: no matter WHAT the situation is, if you drive into weather and roll over because of wind, or slide off the road, or slip into a jacknife – whatever – the driver is at fault. Period. There are no excuses or justifications. It simply means you made the wrong choice and shouldn’t have driven on.

Unfortunately the decision to shut down is rarely cut and dry. If we shut down every time the roads got a little rough, we’d never get anywhere. So the stressful decision-making starts coming into play, and there is always going to be some risk involved when choosing to go on. Even if conditions are only kind of bad. Even if everyone else is going on, too. And risk with these potential consequences we’re facing? Scary.

In Wyoming, we pulled over because marquees were warning of wind gusts 50+ mph. The signs stated “advise against light trailers.” We can max out at 80,000 pounds, but we were only pulling 53,000. That’s pretty light, but it’s not exactly empty, either. Decision time.

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My stomach knotted every time I saw one of these.

My first question was, “what is light, exactly?” I’ve heard several numbers, but the best explanation I’ve heard is this: if you tip over, you were too light. This means if signs say no light trailers, but your load is maxed out at 80,000 pounds, and you tip over – you were too light. I suppose you can see where I’m going with this.

The decision gets very stressful because in some situations, no matter what you choose to do, it could be the wrong choice. But you won’t know until you make it.

We were on that fine line. We parked for a few hours to see if conditions might improve, or maybe there’d just be a break in the wind with enough time to get out of danger. While we were stopped we napped (these past couple of weeks have wreaked havoc on our sleep schedules, so we’ve been grabbing naps whenever possible!). After napping, I got up and started searching for information to help me decide what to do.

Originally the wind advisories were going to lift by that evening. We could still make our delivery if we waited it out. After our nap the advisory was moved out to the following morning, so now if we waited we’d miss our delivery. The decision quickly became a little more dire, and a bit tougher. I put a post out on a facebook trucking page to get some feedback. I downloaded a few weather apps and checked them on a pretty consistent loop. I called 511. I checked the WY DOT website. I observed what kind of trucks were coming OUT of the windy section. (Double trailers and empty cattle trucks carry higher rollover risk, so they’d be the first to shut down.) How many other truckers were on the road? I wondered how heavy they were. I even walked across the road to a truck stop to question other truckers, but there wasn’t anyone in the lounge. Oh, and we’re in a loaner truck, so we don’t have a CB.

I eventually made the decision to go.

The potential wind gusts were bad, but they were going to get much, much worse. Like 70+ mph worse. This would probably CLOSE the highway down. It was also supposed to start snowing. We’d be stuck for days if we stayed. But I had to question if conditions NOW were still safe. The weatherband was listing wind gust speeds by mile marker, and the highest was 47 mph coming out of the west – at our back, which is good. While still a little sketchy, I felt this was my best window to move. It was going to get a lot worse, but I felt okay right now. I texted a fellow driver experienced with this route, and she confirmed my decision to go, but told me to go slow, and stop for a breather if needed. So off I went.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t bad at all. I hit a couple of gusty spots when the road curved southeast, catching a few cross-winds, but they only just leaned on me a little. I was receiving text updates from 511, and just 20 miles past Laramie they CLOSED the road to light trailers. It had already gotten worse. But it was behind me now.

We got out just in the nick of time.

Since then my text updates listed more closures, accidents reported, slick roads, blowing snow, black ice, reduced visibility…

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Got outta there right before this. Lucky!

Whew.

That’s all I can say about that.

And here I sit, safe and sound at our receiver getting our light leafy greens unloaded. On time.

I suppose I could’ve caught a bad gust and these leafy greens could’ve been blowin’ away with the 75mph winds, but they’re not. I took a bit of a risk, but I took the smallest I could in the situation, and came out okay.

Weather can be pretty scary! I have a feeling it’s going to be a long winter!


Tonight I love naps. I’ve never needed naps like I do with this job. Absolutely necessary, and equally wonderful.

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Took a side trip to a shop in Salt Lake City because the check engine light came on. In our loaner. Thankfully it was just a faulty DEF sensor and only put us back two hours.

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Cruisin' along.

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Backed in to the dock waiting to get unloaded.

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Whoosh! Nighttime view.

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6 thoughts on “Just in the nick of time.

  1. I’ve always loved a good nap!

    And thank you for more truckin’ stories. Winter has certainly provided some adventurous road stories for me, but I wasn’t driving a big rig. I can’t wait to hear your winter stories!

  2. Hey Toots Magoots, I’ve been reading this blog for awhile but haven’t had occasion to comment yet. I thru-hiked the PCT in 2013 but I don’t think we ever met in person, although we had to have crossed paths. I really love the trucking blog because truck-driving is one of those things I’ve always wondered and thought about pretty much my whole life, although it’s grown more fascinating to me as I’ve started long-distance driving more around the country in the past 5 years or so, avoiding plane trips whenever possible and trying to see the land.

    Anyway, after that introduction, my question is — what is the resource that you were using to get those text updates? Is it specific to the trucking industry or is it a service anyone can sign up for? And more generally, what resources do you use for weather and road conditions out West? I live in Oregon and am driving to Minnesota right before Christmas this year. I’ve covered every inch of 80, 90 and 94 between there and here but not alone and in the winter. I can check weather forecasts and state DOT websites on my phone til the cows come home but wanted to know if there are more streamlined resources available to the trucker or the long-distance road traveler.

    I apologize if this is a question with a long answer; you can e-mail me at scrubhiker 1 at g mail dot com if you want. Thanks and keep up the awesome blogging!

    – Scrub

    • Hey Scrub, the text updates are only for Wyoming, but I wish all the other states did them, too. The only downfall is when I’m not in WY and I keep getting the texts. Right now I’m in Wisconsin and getting text after text about black ice in Laramie… I had 26 unread texts when I woke up yesterday – BUT – it sure is nice when I’m in Wyoming! I can’t remember the exact path to sign up for Wyoming’s text updates, but it was somewhere on the WYDOT page. I was able to choose which roadways I wanted notifications for, too.

      For the other states, I do as you mentioned – check the state’s DOT pages or 511 – either online or if weather is iffy where I’m at I’ll call. I’ve also been using the weatherband on the radio.

      And… before we head out I check my weather apps. I have both weather underground and weather bug on my phone. Weather bug will notify me when there’s advisories or warnings in any of my saved locations. So I saved several cities I normally travel through. Same with the texts, it beeps at me a lot, but at least I know what’s happening on our regular routes.

      I’m still kinda’ getting a hang of this myself – the whole weather thing is a job in itself!

      So, I guess, unfortunately I don’t have a more streamlined single resource for you. I sure wish I did! If I ever get my hands on something I’ll post it! I’ve seen posts on Facebook talking about apps in the works for truckers checking weather on their routes, but not sure there’s anything out there yet.

      I hope I’ve helped a little bit! The best thing you can remember when travelling long distances, especially in winter – have an emergency kit with you, food, water, etc – and if it gets too sketchy, find a safe spot and park it until things clear up a bit.

      • Awesome, thanks for your answer. I suspected that there wasn’t a really unified way of getting all that information.

        I’ve used the iExit app before, which for a four-wheeler at least helps figure out upcoming services (not really the same as conditions, but helpful nonetheless) on interstates. But I suspect truckers already have all that information from the truckers’ atlases, from the CB radios (if that’s still a thing), or from memory.

      • An app we use for truck stops, rest areas, scales and stuff is called TruckerPath. It won’t show the car-only stops, but it’s nice for other stuff.

        We have a CB, but we need to get antennas for it. I’d like to get comfortable using it. Right now we can only pick up trucks pretty close to us. I just think it would be fun. Later on I’d like to post a blog of some CB lingo. But I need to learn more first! :)

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