In the winter of 1975, after finishing university classes in December, I moved back to Terrace, British Columbia, to take a job driving a body job truck for Lindsay’s Cartage. I had driven small trucks to pay my way through school so I was somewhat experienced—or so I convinced myself.
It was a cold day in January when the boss gave me the call to go to Prince George to pick up groceries for four construction camps on the British Columbia Railway grade project near Dease Lake. They were building a rail grade from Fort St. James to Dease Lake (until the change in government ended the project).
The boss gave me rough directions and suggested asking people along the way to point me toward the camps. I think he was testing my will and fortitude, and I was a little nervous because of the weather conditions and extreme temperatures.
I caught a ride to Burns Lake with another driver to pick up my truck, which wasn’t totally ready until 3:00 a.m. I slept in the waiting room at the garage until it was time to start my journey. Once I was on the road, I couldn’t get any heat in the cab as they had hooked up the hoses backwards, and then the fuel gelled at -40ºC, five miles from Endako.
I hitched a ride after an hour of sitting in my truck burning a candle for heat and donning all my extra clothing. It was extremely cold, and there was no traffic until a mail truck came along. I picked up a jerry can of fresh fuel in Fraser Lake and hitched a ride back to my truck and got going again.
This was really testing my fortitude and enthusiasm for trucking in B.C. I continued on to Prince George, where I got the heat problem solved, picked up the groceries and headed west to Kitwanga and then north to Dease Lake. Near the sleepy hamlet of Tatogga Lake, near Iskut, I had to veer off the main road for 10 miles, then onto the BCR grade to the first camp, which I got to at 10:00 p.m. They knew I was coming so they sent a grader out to meet me halfway and plow the narrow grade.
Nobody told me the other camp was just a few miles further on, so I returned to the camps near Dease Lake where they informed me there was one more camp looking for their groceries. I returned up the BCR grade again but this time experienced a very memorable and magical experience.
As I was driving up the narrow, sloping rail grade with steep snow banks and jagged mountains along the side, listening to CFUN radio with “The Luker,” I felt special. The moon was shining brightly on the snow-covered plateau, under a clear starry sky. I was like a movie star under the bright lights as the stars twinkled on me in the snowy white landscape. It felt like the mountain spires were cheering me on, mile after mile. It brought a smile to my face and my nervousness subsided as I felt part of this vast wilderness environment.
I had passed a pack of wolves and some moose along the trees and could feel them cheering me on as well. Those few hours were the most awe-inspired feeling this greenhorn trucker had ever experienced, and was a valuable lesson from the school of hard knocks.
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