Up here on the tundra we keep our big jackets with the big pockets on all winter, never know when a blizzard gonna come up. We keep them big pockets full of gloves and survival  supplies, and with the rather loose open bar beforehand I’d loaded up on some vintages far beyond my normal budget. Microsoft apparently wanted to impress us with their “convertible” laptops and software, so I grabbed a lifetime supply of each too. Rumor had also spread that the containers of Santa’s toys contained a few “extras”, just in case…

When it had become rapidly obvious that our self-driving truck had mistaken the frozen Red River for I-29 and a low bridge was imminent, I pulled the big red knob and hoped for the best. This of course sets the emergency brakes on both trailers to full locked wheels, but all that commotion set the ice into full failure mode, sinking the whole rig a couple feet as we sat parked on the shallow bottom of the river under a county road bridge a few miles south of Fargo. With satellite and cell reception blocked by the bridge and valley, the truck’s computers went nuts. Spotting what looked to be a fire tanker access ramp easing up the riverbank I saw an exit, and the mucky river bottom probably gave better traction than the ice. But the Freightliner and it’s electronics would have none of it, and responded to my engaging gear with a total system shutdown.

So I climbed out and reconnoitered, county road signs orienting me… I-29 being terminally boring, I usual travel US-75 or old US-81 between Fargo and points south. Wasn’t there a taller than usual Mack MH cabover sleeping in a farmyard a hundred yards west? Never mind the cold and snow, I quickly walked that hundred yards and was greeted by a little ol’ house with a roaring wood stove and an already inebriated trio of bachelor farmers. Gave the bachelor farmers a few bottles of the cheaper booze as “icebreakers”, then made small talk ’til they were drunk enough to make an offer for the Mack. We settled on new laptops for each of them, more booze, and a hunting rifle apiece. Inspected the Mack and found it matched my suspicions- limited production all wheel drive UPS tractor built for the Colorado Rockies, even the chain box was full of enough iron for every wheel. Started right up with a jump, and while it warmed up we opened the containers to see what firearms were available. By Canadian regulation the ammunition was far separate from the firearms, and I offered them some oddball rifles they were unlikely to have ammo for, being I still had to get the dead Freightliner aside and the trailers outa the river…

The deal was done and I chained up the Mack, proceeding down that ramp into the river. Tire chains ain’t supposed to be used for towing but they did the job, though Freightliner should really get all their “tupperware” outa the way of solid tow chain attachment points.  Even with the dead Freightliner’s brakes locked it was no contest, the Mack quickly moving it aside. The real challenge was the loaded trailers, but they were already half jackknifed by the panic stop so I could get a running start before the “train” stretched out and their load was felt. Finally made it up the ramp and outa the river, then consulted the old reliable paper map and found my way to I-29 south.

The storm delivered everything advertised- snow, thunder, freezing rain, fog, whatever. Ended up hanging all the chains to get over the Buffalo Ridge, finally ran outa the ice and made tracks to Sioux Falls. Learned a few new tricks… When everything is covered with ice, if the wind gusts blow your back trailer into a guardrail it just slides on the ice and does no damage. Backed the trailers into the dock by midnight and let the elves deal with it.

And Freightliner, you might want to get your piece of junk outa the river before the spring floods. And when the weather clears, I promised the bachelor farmers I’d come back and show them how to use the computers… Then again, they may have found ammo for their new guns by then!

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