The Patricks Low Cost Housing Adventures travel blog

We delivered our beer and waited for the next adventure. Picking up in Winston-Salem, NC going to Tracy, California. It doesn't deliver until was Friday (basically a solo load) but our dispatcher set it up so we can drop it early at our yard in Stockton, CA not far away. This time we went the southern route into California, going across I-40. It's less mountainy (is that a word?)and we get better fuel mileage. It was a nice, light load of Cover Girl Make-up!

We are often asked what is the most frightening experience we have encountered. We both agree it was a Mountain Pass on I-8 coming out of San Diego. This was back in 1992 or 93. We hadn't been driving very long and the small company we worked for finally got us a truck with a engine brake. We were 80,000 lbs and heading back east. Having never been on this route before, we were admiring the cool rock formations and desert/mountain scenery. Then there was the really neat stone tower on top of the pass, a couple warning signs about a downgrade and that was all. I was driving and not really paying attention to what lay ahead. I topped the hill at 55mph and just flipped on the engine brake. Nothing. It had been intermittently not working. The downhill is shaped like the letter "S", but with a couple more long, sharp curves added. While I quickly began using my brakes to slow down, we also had a second mechanical problem. The air compressor was weak, and not filling our air tanks faster than I was using them to slow down the truck. When the air tanks get to a certain psi, a warning buzzer comes on. If it continues to drop, the spring brakes will engage which will bring you to a screeching halt. As I was trying to slow down enough for the curves, the brakes were getting too hot and weren't working as well. The low air warning buzzer had come on and pressure was continuing to drop. An escape ramp was coming up and we considered having to take it. I was not going to have enough brakes or air to make it the rest of the way down the mountain. As we approached the ramp Jim said to use the brakes as hard as I could and try to come to a stop. If we were slowed down enough, he would pull the emergency spring brakes button and head for the shoulder. If I couldn't slow down enough, we would have to take the ramp. I pressed the brakes as hard as I could, slowing down to about 20mph. Smoke was pouring from the brakes. Jim told me to hit the shoulder next to the escape ramp and he pulled the brake. We slide to a stop. Jim ran back to the trailer with the fire extinguisher but there was only lots of smoke, the brakes being very hot! My legs were shaking too much to get out of the truck just yet. That had been a close call. We sat there at least a half an hour allowing the brakes and my nerves to cool down. Needless to say, the owner was informed of the needed truck repairs. I had never been so scared in the truck as that time. And hope that's the worst.

The fast trip back to California was uneventful. But we made up for it on the return trip! Will tell you about that tomorrow.

"But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Luke 12:7

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