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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Winding Road

Earlier in my life, I did a lot of different things for work, just to see what it was like. Even after settling down for marriage and children, I still was lucky enough to find something that was interesting as a career. However, before settling down, buying the dog and the picket fence, I worked in the oil fields of West Texas and the off shore oil rigs, along the gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana. I spent a little time on a ranch or two in Texas and New Mexico, just to see what that was like.

I wondered what it would be like to take a big rig down the road, so I did a little of that and tried a few other things along the way. I am not sure if I was exploring, or searching for happiness. I think maybe a combination of the two it seems. I think in regards to the happiness, I have always been a happy person for the most part. Like many folks, I can get inside myself with heavy thoughts at times. So along the way I have learned to take the advice of something I may have read in a hallmark card, like taking life in moments, instead of lumping it all together. 

I suppose since most of my writing is erotica, one would expect me to write my happy moments as kisses in the moonlight and the love and touch of a good woman. I suppose a little of that along the way may have been sweet icing. However, today I chose to write an experience with just me, a truck, a warm summer night and a steep winding road.

Though hundreds of forgotten miles were traveled, one particular night stands out as a moment to remember. I recall a short, but sometimes complex run, which entailed dropping down out of the North Carolina mountains, to pick up a load down near the Georgia line. The load was always over the legal weight, so it was pulled late at night, when the weigh stations along the way were most likely to be closed. The traffic was lighter also, because the truck and trailer was, for sure, a road full on the steep winding mountain road.

The trip down the mountain was simple enough, just gear down the truck and let the engine hold you back, allowing you to stay off the brakes. A few hours earlier a dip in the cold river below might have been nice, but not this night, so keep the brakes cool at all costs.

The return trip however, was what I choose to remember as a pleasant moment. Once the empty trailer was dropped for reloading and the tractor hooked to the heavy load, the mountain was waiting to be climbed. Under the extreme weight of the new load, the handling of the tractor would dramatically change. When the heavy springs and tires beneath the tractor absorb the weight, the ride would smooth. The gear changes with acceleration of the load must be quicker, so as not to lose momentum when the clutch is pressed for the shift.
I suppose what I write here would offer little interest for most, just another work night. I, however, have always taken an interest into how things work. So when the tractor heads up the steep incline of the mountain, I cannot help but think of what all is working in unison within the tractor, to power the 70 to 80 thousand pounds or more up the mountain.

Even with the powerful engine and gearing designed to do nothing else but move a heavy load, this particular mountain was so steep, even in the lowest of gears it took everything; the huge power train of the tractor could deliver.

In low gear and straining against the load, often times the tractor would be moving twenty miles per hour or less. So needless to say, the fifteen or twenty mile pull was going to take a while. This warm summer night I recall pulling the hand throttle fully open, with my foot now free from the floor accelerator and no other traffic around; I opened the door and stepped partially out of the cab on to the fuel tank step.

Along with the simple pleasure of the cool night air touching my face, I can hear all of the sounds of the truck working hard to climb the steep grade. With the throttle pulled inside, the injector pump out on the engine is wide open, feeding the fuel to the engine intake. With the injection of fuel, you can hear the engine air intake drawing in the supply of oxygen it demands for the combined mix to allow the huge pistons to fire at full power. When the generated power is transferred along the drive train to the tandem axles, you can hear the gritty sound of the tires seeking their traction on the pavement below, to move the heavy load upward.

The two chrome stacks behind the cab serve to muffle some of the sound of the engine as it works to provide the needed power. In the darkness of the night and the engine running at its maximum power for a long period of time, you can see the base of the exhaust stacks glow red from the escaping heat.

I suppose the slow moving truck is seen by most as a hindrance along the road way and is, even for me, if I am in a hurry. However, that night, with all that power at my fingertips, the cool breeze on my face, the scream of the engine echoing off the surrounding mountains, telling me it’s giving me all it has to give, is one of those unplanned, simple moments I choose to remember. 

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