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Monday, May 28, 2012

Trucker Logic

       Just recently I had the chance to go back to an area I went to originally way back in !986.   When I first started over the road trucking.  In the process I learned a couple things.  First get a new map.  Especially if the one you are using is almost 20 years old.  Things change.  The Atlas I had on this trip was new in 1997.  Add to that the couple years it takes to put a map together and this map was probably at least 18 years old. The cause of this adventure was to see if a road I went down way back when was as bad as I remembered it.  It was and maybe even worse than I remember it.  The sign below is the one on the road today.  When I did it back in 1986 it was a different sign.  Back then the sign said, "Not recommended for vehicles over 42 feet in length." My truck was right at 60 feet in length.

     Well first let me tell how I got to this point so you can understand my dilemma. I was driving a flatbed and had emptied out near Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  My dispatcher told me to go to Spruce Pine, North Carolina and get loaded.  He did not give me directions and that should have been my first tip off that I was being set up.  My company was a union company and paid on percentage of revenue.  Because of that the company reserved the right to route our trips to make sure we did not waste money.  They did not route me so I took out my trusty map and saw that U.S.421 seemed to be the shortest way to Spruce Pine. It was, and is, till you get to Boone, NC then you take 321 south to Blowing Rock, North Carolina.  There you have to change to highway 221. When you do, the first thing you see as you turn onto the road is the sign pictured below.  At least today that is what it says.  That is not what it said 26 years ago.  Back then it said what I said earlier. The maximum recommended length was 42 feet, which just happened to be the length of my trailer.  That did not include the tractor.
    As most truckers would I consulted my Atlas.  That is when it got interesting. Via 221 the distance to my destination was 37 miles.  However if I did not take that route.  I had to go down to Hickory, NC and then across I -40 to Asheville, NC.  Finally I had to go from Asheville to Spruce Pine.  The total distance was almost a 160 miles instead of 37.  After considering the facts.  I used good ol' trucker logic.  It said not recommended.  It did not say you could not go that way. Like it does now.  I figured if I moved my trailer axles all the way forward I would not be that much over what they recommended.  So I slid the axles.  Surely it could not be that bad?
     So off I went.  A couple of miles into the trip,  after meeting myself coming and going, I started pondering the wisdom of my decision..  It was extremely curvy.  I came to a sharp right hand curve.  I made several attempts to make the corner but every time I did my trailer tandems kept hitting a rock. It was not that big of a rock but I could not take the corner any wider.  It was several hundred feet down on the left side and several hundred feet up on the right.   I was at a point where I had an option.  Either back up around all the curves for 2 or 3 miles or drag the trailer over the rock.  Initially I tried to back up but it was not going well.  Soon I reached my frustration level and pulled the trailer till it went up over the rock.   As soon as I did two thoughts ran through my mind in quick succession.  If there was another or worse situation ahead I could not back over that rock.  The second was that short of using a crane there was no way to turn my truck around.  At this point I was committed for better or for worse.  If I did get stuck out here it was going to be a long, long walk to a telephone to call my company and admit my stupidity.  
      My next exciting event was meeting a car full of site seeing tourists.  The last thing they expected to see on that stretch of road was a big truck.  One car almost ran off the road trying to avoid me.  The blind curves that I had to get in the left lane to get around generated much excitement both for them and me.  This road goes around the side of Grand Father Mountain.  Today this road can be avoided by taking the Blue Ridge Parkway.  While that is a good idea in most situations, it is a pretty road. It is a scenic drive with many lookouts and small waterfalls. 
        Oh yes and a few places where the cliff hangs out over the road.  Had I been pulling a van trailer I would not have been able to get through the 30 some miles.  As it was, it was bad enough with a flat bed trailer.  Several miles into the trip I came to a point in the road pictured below.  There was no way to get wide enough to make the corner and after several attempts and getting my trailer only 3/4 's of the way through I did the only thing I could do at this point.  I used the side of the boulder for a pivot point to literally drag the trailer around the corner by making the tires slide on the pavement.  Not a normally accepted method of turning sharp corners.
     It took over three hours to go the 37 miles.  It was not much of a time savings and I doubt it saved much fuel either.  When I called dispatch after loading I started venting.  Soon I realized the dispatcher had the phone on the intercom so the whole office could here and they were getting a great laugh at my expense. Later I learned I was not the first and probably not the last driver that the dispatchers had played there little game with.  However I did learn something from it all.  When I see a sign I know it is there for a reason.  Also when I see a sign for trucks in North Carolina.  I take it to heart.
      If you found this funny or interesting I have a couple more funnies on "how not to go down a hill"  One is my 11/7/11 and happened in Arizona.   The other 4/12/12  happened in Vietnam with a load of bombs on my truck.  Thanks for taking the time to read it.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this story Ric. I am especially glad that you were able to get back there and take these pictures. That one of the rock protruding into the roadway is priceless!

    Stories like this make me want to quit the local gig and venture out on the open road and explore our great country. I will probably wait until my kids are grown and gone though before I do that.

    Thanks for sharing this and I am looking forward to reading more like it.

  2. Hey, Turtle, I'd love to hear what you think, as a trucker, about my only short "trucker" story "Lenny Thomas had Seen it All" posted here on my blog at

    Thanks! Lori