Volume I, Edition IX



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Greetings, Chieficionados!

In what we realize has rapidly become a painfully tired old line, boy, has it been a long time since the last edition of The Chief (tm) News hit the newsstands! Of course, the nation-wide celebrations of The Chief (tm)'s Half-Birthday on Nov. 18 -- featuring the usual parades, sky-writing, organ grinders & cymbal-playing monkeys, etc. -- helped tremendously to occupy the tedium perma-docked in the reading audiences' "lives".

(Oh, and perhaps Thanksgiving did, as well.)

But with TC(tm)N withdrawal symptoms no doubt approaching near-psychosis levels, good news is we're back and giving you the real thing! And in this case, said "real thing" includes The Chief (tm)'s first-ever exposure to cold temperatures and snowfall whilst behind the wheel of the big boy.

Assignment: haul a trailer's worth of non-expedited parcels for a major worldwide shipping company whose name shall go unmentioned (but whose HQ is in Memphis, TN). "Actual", the load was only about 15K lbs., roughly a third of a trailer's capacity. Pre-loaded, so no waiting around; jes' hook up an' git...that is, after locating our trailer from among literally hundreds parked at the distribution center. Incredible. We headed out of Riverside County past Vegas and into the southwest corner of Utah, where pre-sunrise temps first hovered right around the freezing mark, but then slowly dipped into the mid-20's even as El Sol, the Giver of Life, made its appearance and illuminated the rock formations along the west side of Interstate 15. The red color from the moisture-laden rock contrasted beautifully with the blue sky behind it.

We turned off I-15 onto I-70, aiming east along the route that heads towards Grand Junction, CO and then afterwards, through canyons and mountains past Glenwood Springs...where, you'll all be thrilled to learn, the construction of the new bridge over the river, which was underway when The Chief (tm) passed through in August (?), has now been completed. Interstate 70 itself has been mentioned previously on these pages, but not when streams and creeks and even waterfalls had developed layers of ice upon them! Also, this was the first time that we had driven eastward on the road, mostly on the lower "shelf" that the EB lanes are built upon. (The design of the road is worth reading up about, seriously.) A freight train came down the tracks on the other side of the canyon, and then a dusting of snow began to fall. The road is narrow and twisty, and that's why the speed limit for trucks is only 45 MPH...and sometimes even *that* pace is challenging to safely maintain.

Night began to fall as we came out of the canyon near Gypsum, and in the increasing darkness the holiday lighting and decorations in Eagle, Vail and Silverthorne shone brightly. But the snow began to fall, too, and soon enough there was about 2" on the unplowed roads. Sure, big plows were standing by and eventually got going, but not before we climbed up to the 10,600-ft. mark at the rest stop at Vail Pass. Here, unplowed snow was on the order of 6" and the temperature -- are you ready? -- was at 9 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT. Br-r-r-r-r! But there was no wind whatsoever and it wasn't at all obvious how cold the thermometer read...although we know that pretty much everyone in the TC(tm)N universe can remember reports of summertime temperatures, in AZ and NV and so on, reaching over 100 degrees *higher*! Sacre bleu!

On the way back down from the peak, we saw the big electronic signs telling us that commercial vehicles were legally required to put on tire chains up ahead -- "throwing iron", as the grizzled, frostbitten veterans call it. Colorado doesn't play around WRT wintertime driving regulations: commercial vehicles MUST carry chains from Sept. 1 (!) until May 31 (!) in order to travel on I-70, and sometimes you do actually need 'em right at those times!

Now, our younger readers -- the "next-gen" Chieficionados, you were undoubtedly already thinking -- likely do not recall a time when tire chains were fairly common sights even on passenger vehicles. Although those times are long gone, if you check on YouTube for video of the chain-up process, you can see how much of a pain in the ass it really is. Right off the bat, for heavy-duty trucks riding on tires some three feet in diameter, the chains themselves weigh about fifty pounds...


And you're putting on a minimum of four and a maximum of ten sets of the gol-darned things! Luckily, we had not chains but another type of ATD ("Approved Traction Device"), which are instead cables. MUCH lighter, and therefore much easier to arrange before securing to the tire.

Putting them on still requires strict adherence to a process, or else you won't have them all properly ready to be tightened at the same time, and you'll have to back up or move forward again to fix the rogue ones. But we nailed it on the first try and got 'em all secured up in what the clock says took thirty minutes, but which seemed rather quicker than that.

Once they're on, you are limited to a top speed of 30 MPH...

...and then, after all that, twenty miles later there's a sign telling you to take them off! Which, of course, takes less time, but now you've got all these filthy, wet chains that you have to throw back into the storage area in the truck. When it's all over, you've needed about ninety minutes to travel those twenty miles. I guess that's why they call it "work"?

But hey, at least the office has a view! And it always changes!

Fast forwarding just a touch: whatever night it was, playing on the sound system at a truck stop, Wheeling, WV, 2:29 AM -- "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses. An all-time '80's classic...

All for now, gang, all for now!

-- Sincerely,
The Chief (tm)
a.k.a. The Pacific Standard (tm)