It was January, and I loaded up with wood moulding in Yakima, Washington and headed for Alexandria, Ontario. I crossed the border up by Bonner and prepared to take the load across Canada. The border crossing went well, and I had no problems other than poor winter conditions, which caused me to slow down a bit and be a little more careful. The load was cinched down, tarped up, and considering the time of year; things were going quite well.
I spent the night just on the Northside of Thunder Bay at the fuel stop and then headed out intending to make North Bay and deliver the next day. From listening to the CB, I found out that the highway around the lake was in horrible conditions, so I decided to take the north route through Longlac and Hearst as that road was said to be in fair condition.
I made it up to Longlac, and whoever said the road was OK didn’t know what he was talking about as I was running slow due to drifting snow and poor visibility, not to mention that it was cold enough for Polar Bears. After a quick coffee break, I was back on the road, and things were humming right along, but man, was it getting colder. I figured I was about 20 miles out of Hearst when I noted that my engine was overheating, so I shut it down and pulled over to the side to check things out. Belts all looked good, the rad was right up, and everything else looked great. I hopped back in and fired the big kitty back up, and then I noticed I had no heat coming from the heater- Oh Crap - that meant I just blew a water pump, and there was nothing around there to help me out but trees. I knew it would get cold inside, so I put on all my cold-weather gear and tried to figure out what to do. I figured I could let the engine cool, then fire it up and make a mile or so before having to shut it off, and if I repeated this a few times, I could make Hearst, where there was a repair shop right on the west side of town. Two hours later, and still, no sign of Hearst, and I knew I was in trouble when an OPP cruiser pulled up to check and make sure I was OK. I had already started shivering badly, and I was sure glad to hop in his warm patrol car. He told me I was only a couple miles from town, and after warming up a bit, I told him I was going to try and limp the truck into town. He said he would try and get back to me when he got a chance, so I hopped back in the truck and tried again. Three or four stop and goes, and I finally made it into the town and pulled off into the large parking lot at the repair shop, but by now, I was in trouble. Shut the truck down, locked it up and staggered across the parking lot to where I could see a Motel sign but after banging on the door and pushing the buzzer for a while, I realized it was closed, and I stumbled down the road and literally fell into the Timmie’s shop that was just about to close for the night. I only made it through the first set of doors when I collapsed, and the manager who was heading over to lock up had to drag me inside. The next thing I knew my coat and mitts had been removed, and I was inside a nice warm “kitchen” where they fed me about four cups of hot chocolate and phoned the ambulance. I convinced the paramedics that I was not in too bad a condition, and they took me over to the local hotel, which was open and still had a few rooms left. Into the room, and after a HOT bath, I wasn’t shaking anymore and realized just how lucky I was to have made it.
The truck had blown a water pump, and aside from having to wait for a new one to be sent by Greyhound from Toronto, everything was fine. I got my 36 hours reset on my log, got a couple of good nights rest, and my load was only a couple of days late, but that didn’t much matter as they had lots of product in stock.
One thing I did realize after that was that you don’t fool around with -40 degree weather if you want to live and keep trucking. I had been lucky - another 15 minutes or so outside in those temps, and I would have died, but I had pushed the limit and managed to make it.