My Last Rig
It was 1999 and I was hauling the tanker you see in the photo above. It was used for hauling Spring Water from a New Hampshire Spring Water Company up in the lakes region.
Heading up the mountain roads to pick up the loads were hard enough on me but once loaded and top closed, I had to get down that long steep grade, now weighing in at 103,000 gross pounds. Yes I was a Heavy Hauler and my load MOVED. When filling, the idea was to get it chock full of water so movement would be cut down to a minimum.
In the summer months hauling spring water were such pretty days. Traveling from bottling plants back up on top of the mountain for more and back down again. Most days I did this trip three times. Long hours were hard on me and my rig.
I fought traffic through Massachusetts rush hours only to be caught in one just trying to get back home to New Hampshire but I made decent money, paid my bills and still had some fun.
Now all I just told you went on during winters as well and no, not so pretty. Maybe I should have had a camera with me but I was all business when behind the wheel but now that I look back, what a blast to capture what I saw out there on a daily basis. Stopped of course.
I changed my own oil in the rig as well as greased it, from end to end. I did all the repairs I knew how to do or that Dad could walk me through or even help me with when he was not busy driving himself.
This is the ugly part of a day, in the life of me and my truck.
I always kept great tires on my truck, it is what allowed me to run day in and day out with no blown tires and left sitting on the side of the road. Well it still would happen but not so often, more so when I was hauling rubbish in and out of landfills.
Well on this day I headed out with 4 new tires for my rear axle of my tractor. I gave my old tires to the place I always did business with and paid the man, even gave him a friendly” Thanks so much”, see you when the fronts come in Call Me!
I went up to the mountain to grab another load of spring water and kicked tires before heading down that nasty mountain road, never knowing it would be one of the scariest rides . I was loving the ride knowing my tires were new and actually very pretty, you see I even sand blasted the rims and had them powder coated. I was out on a major highway here in New Hampshire and stopped to pay my toll then shortly after I was in Newburyport Massachusetts on 95 south when I heard, then felt something funny, well not funny but you know what I mean. I clenched the big rigs wheel and held on tight about this time I see one of my new tires pass me! Then I knew I was in serious trouble my boyfriend yelled ” aren’t you going to stop?”. I swear to you I could not answer him, this had never happened before in over two million miles of driving one of these. I looked in my mirror to my left as the tire would surly head out in front of me and into the lane beside me. There was a full school bus and all I could do to warn anyone and make them pay attention was to lay on the air horn, which had everyone’s attention by the grace of God. This huge truck tire was moving! I had been in the right travel lane and bus in middle lane and we had lots of other company on the southbound side of I 95. The tire came across my lane into the school bus lane across the next one into the medium strip of the highway and popped up in front of a Saab, who was not expecting or paying attention to all of us headed south with our 4 way emergency flashes on. When he or she saw it coming straight at them they jerked the wheel and it just missed them and off the other side it went! I asked Dave to remember where as I needed to go and collect it. Then the tire which rides beside it, passed me and this one could have killed us and many others that day but once again by the grace of God and my luck, it did not get caught up under us, which could have had me loosing control and just horrible, unimaginable things taking place that day. This inside tire took the path up the breakdown lane and thankfully no one was parked there. It then left the highway and went down the embankment. Dave again took a mile marker number down as we would have to hunt it down. These tires were $400.00 each and the rims were expensive as well, never mind what I paid to have the man do the work of putting them on.
While wheels were leaving the truck and traffic veering around the first one and me holding on for dear life, I also had taken my foot off the accelerator and was coasting all the while, 103,000 lbs gross weight of tractor-trailer and load of spring water. I moved the truck into the breakdown lane, the nightmare over.
What I explained here in the telling of the story happened all within split seconds but seemed very much in Slow Motion. I was lucky that day, boyfriend too but mostly the many people who had just been out for a drive.
Now as I am pulled over, emergency flashes still on and I can’t move. It is over but somehow I know it isn’t. Boyfriend jumps out to check the truck out then I follow with cell phone in hand, how I hate phones but this day it helped me stay calm and out of trouble.
I could see my poor air bags and springs and shocks where extended beyond where they should be with all the weight on the other three sets of duel tires so I asked him to put down the landing gears while I called into the mountain to send another driver down to grab my loaded trailer and get it to the bottling plant before they ran out of water and had to shut down the line. I have always been like this, thinking of the other person though this meant I would not get paid for the load that was forty minutes from being delivered but sadly I had more import things to take care of.
I called the tire repairman and have him an earful. I called a wrecker and had him charged for it, though he assumed I would pay for it in the end. Once another driver arrived and hooked to my trailer I was sitting in the breakdown lane so I asked him the boyfriend who was a big help on days like this to get me a chain and some tools and went about taking off the leveler arm to get the axle where it needed to sit so I could chain it up and limp home, no the wrecker was not for me it was to go with Dave to pick up the two wayward tires and rims and bring them to our neighbors, the ones who had the fire I just told you about. I got the truck home and parked over there and then Dave and the tires arrived seems they had both gone down and over and landed in nasty puddles of road run off he and the tow truck driver and tires were filthy. I told the driver to bill the tire man for new boots too.
What a morning I had had on those new tires of mine.
What I wrote about here has happened to others I am sure in one degree or another but this one was my story of a beautiful sunny day till all the BOLTS SNAPPED do you know why? Seems he had over torqued them while using his air gun on them. I too have used air but always tightened them up by hand. He could have cost us and the others their life that day and you know he even had the audacity to BILL ME suffice to say I never paid him for second round of repairs. I told him to take me to court so I could tell the judge the story I have just written here.
Also I have to tell you from the moment this happened till the time I made a drink that night to try to unwind. I never saw one police officer. None pulled over to help me or ask if I was OK, you see they all knew me as a strong woman who did everything on her own. I guess that is the good part as I got no citations but boy I sure could have used some BLUE LIGHTS to protect us from possibly being hit, while we worked on the rig with traffic buzzing by at 70+MPH.
So keep your eyes open while driving or walking.
Please stay off your phones too.
PAY ATTENTION to where you are and what is going on around you.
You just never know and had I been gabbing on the phone like as if I was sitting in my living room I may not be here or that bus full of students.