27 August 2015
South of Roseburg the hills became mountains. In the valleys the smoke from the forest fires burning across Oregon was thickest. I turned the A/C to internally circulate the air but the visibility, even though it was afternoon, was limited. I was loaded with nearly 44,000 lbs and I downshifted into 7th to take the first of the summits. Then down, in a steep descent in 9th gear, rpms high, running the Jake on high, and then slowly up a second 2000 foot summit. After Grant's Pass I began the even slower climb up the Siskiyou to the highest elevation on Interstate 5.
I was in 6th gear now and had pulled onto the widened shoulder to allow the unloaded trucks to blow by me. I was high enough that the smoke from the fires had lessened. One driver had told me you can look out your window as you ascend and see the snails passing you. I turned on the audiobook recording of Giorgio Vasari's The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects. I had found it on a website offering free downloads of classic, out of copyright texts of which anyone could make a recording and upload it.
The reader was an English woman with a gentle voice. The road steepened and I shifted into 5th and then back into 6th. A sign indicated I was nearly at the summit and that trucks were required to pull over and perform a brake check. But there was something wrong with this English woman's voice.
I pulled over and stopped in the line of trucks at the top and did my leak test, a pump down of the air brakes to check for the warning buzzer and that both the tractor protection valve and parking brake knobs popped at 25psi. As I waited for the air tanks to refill I realized the English woman had a speech problem.
"Cimabue twained in Fwowence and he was, in one sense, the pwincipal cause of the wenewal of painting..."
With the air tanks filled I started down the summit. A sign indicated the different gears in which trucks should take the descent given their weight. I started down in 8th with the Jake on high.
"Aftwa a time in Wome, he painted the Cwucifixion for the Fwowentine chuwch at Santa Cwoce..."
I felt the truck taking off on me and pressed the brake gently before I rounded a corner. I glanced in the mirror at the trailer, not wanting to see it begin to swing around. I had heard the stories of trucks braking too hard and the momentum of the trailer continuing on, the driver watching, horrified, as his trailer moved past him in the cab, jack-knifing the truck and dragging the cab down the mountain. That was how trucks ended up facing the wrong way on the road.
"the bwead as the body of ouw Woord Jesus Chwise..."
I was concerned too with taking the steep turns too quickly and setting off the stability controls. All Schneider trucks were outfitted with a computer to report unsafe maneuvers for which drivers were immediately called and reprimanded. I had no interest in taking a call from Mitch Neemers.
"the powtwait of the Bavawian and in like mannuh the miwacles of Wanniewi..."
I passed the first of the truck runaway ramps. These were the long, thickly sanded paths off the roadside intended to slow trucks that had blown out their air brakes, had their brakes fail, or overheated their brakes from excessive use. You ended up in one of those and you would never drive again, if you lived.
"a mwavelous wesembwance to a chwoiw of sinwers..."
It was very steep now and I was braking the truck at 50mph to bring it back to 45mph using a practice called "brake snubbing." This application of the brakes to slow the truck 5mph at a time, watching the truck accelerate back to the speed you first applied the brake, and then re-braking the truck to slow that same 5mph increment, is intended to save your brakes from overheating.
"the fact he painted evewything in fwesco, nevew wepainting anything..."
I was still looking in my mirror for that trail of black smoke that told me my brakes were done and I should look for the next runaway truck ramp.
"Pietwo made the blessed buwial on a sawcophagus made to look like mawble..."
My Rand McNally announced I crossed the state border and entered California. The road began to level out and I upshifted into 9th. Then into 10th. I had descended from the Siskiyou Summit.
"how the wetouching of fwescos aftwew causes injuwey--"
I reached over and shut the English woman off. I had heard enough of Giogwio Vasawi for today.