Travels With An Old Bedbug (November 01, 2003)

by Harry Rudolfs

The following is the third of a four part series on Harry Rudolfs’ highway adventures with living Canadian trucking legend Ross Mackie.

Thursday May 8

I startle myself awake as the lights of Winnipeg come into sight.

A light rain is misting as Ross passes a B-train full of grain.

“I’m tired,” he says, wrist propped on top of the gearshift. “I was thinking of curling up on the floor.”

Ross steers into a welcoming Husky parking lot.

He takes the bunk while I get take-out coffee, brownies, a Winnipeg Free Press.

The rain is smattering heavier as I pull out of the service centre.

I promptly miss the bypass, snacking on brownies.

It’s all right, I tell myself, how often does one get to see downtown Winnipeg at 5:00 a.m.?

The bakery trucks and cars are beginning to swell the streets, a pre-dawn restlessness washes across the city.

I take Broadway and then Portage, passing only a block from the provincial legislature.

About 30 traffic lights later, I can spot an inspection station in the distance.

But the officers are busy with another truck.

No flashing lights for us.

Ross wakes and we stop for breakfast in Brandon, Manitoba.

At Broadview, Saskatchewan, he shows me where he and his dad had to unhook the trailer so they could get under a low bridge.

They dragged the trailer with a chain by the dolly wheels (in those days dolly wheels really were wheels).

“There was a little bit of pavement around Winnipeg, and a little bit around Regina,” says Ross.

“Depending on what time of the year it was, you could run into sections that were gumbo – mud up to the axles and it would be impossible to steer.”

The land grows hillier and increasingly saline as we vector westward.

A solitary red-tailed hawk drifting over the valleys might be a descendent of the same one that watched the Mackie trucks roll through here 50 years ago.

The fuel gauge is dangling on E by the time we pull into the Husky at Medicine Hat, Alta.

It is suppertime and we both eat quickly while the truck is getting fueled.

I have the last portion of farmer’s sausage and immediately regret it.

Ross, meanwhile, fumbles with his cell phone – this is an ongoing ritual that takes him at least an hour per day.

Each time he listens to his long list of messages and meticulously resaves them.

Driving the Trans-Canada through Alberta is a thrill for me, especially with the 110 km speed limit.

We pass giant feeder calf and stockyard operations.

As we climb higher, long ribs of snowdrifts still cling to the land (severe snowstorms tore through here late this year, well into May).

The self-weigh inspection station east of Calgary leaves us scratching our heads.

“What do you do if you’re overweight,” asks Ross. “Arrest yourself?”

Calgary is another one of those cities that entwines itself with the TransCanada-there is no bypass.

We park beside a Travelodge at the west end of town while Ross checks prices.

But cheaper is not better tonight.

Our room is in the back alley besides a row of dumpsters.

The shower leaks and water rolls into the carpet.

It doesn’t matter. Ross is asleep before the lights are off.

– The conclusion of Part Four of Travels with an Old Bedbug will appear in next month’s issue.

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