Friday, May 8, 2009

The Big Blow

I had my first 18-wheeler style blowout.
It was one of the trailer wheels, so not such a big jolt to the driving.
What made it most interesting was that it happened on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge.  This bridge spans the largest swamp in the country and stretches a whooping 18.2 miles.  
What a wonderful spot for a blowout.  Wheeeeee - we're having fun now! 
Oh, did I mention that it happened late on a Friday afternoon. 
Talk about backing up some traffic!  I was in the right hand lane when it blew, so I eased over to the shoulder (which is JUST barely wide enough for a semi) and paused long enough to ensure that everything was still intact - yep . . . nothing laying out in the roadway.  At this time of evening on this bridge, I knew better than to get out of the truck, so I decided to creep forward about 10 miles per hour with my emergency flashers going. 
Oh, and did I mention that the blowout happened about 10 feet before the exit for the ONLY rest area on the bridge.
Plus we were fully loaded (meaning that our rig weighed in at a barely legal 79,600 pounds).  
No way this baby was slowing down enough for me to dive off the exit ramp.  Swept right on by that before coming to my check-the-rig pause.
Here's the picture - 2 lanes of Friday afternoon traffic.  One of them is totally blocked by a very slow moving semi.  Can you imagine the backup and feel the wave of irritation washing over the driver of that slow moving roadblock?  It wasn't the most pleasant feeling.

Oh wait, what's this in the picture? 
A Louisiana State Patrol cruiser with it lights and siren on.  And it is pulling in behind me.  I wonder if he wants me to pull over?  I'm not doing anything wrong.  Yep . . . he not only wants me to pull over, he is motioning for ME to get out of the truck and come back to him.  I thought THEY were the ones who risked life and limb in whizzing traffic situations.  Luckily, the traffic had all been scared over to only one lane by the lights and siren and I had a momentary clear space to jump out of the cab and run the 70' back to the cruiser.
I explained what had happened and what my plans were now (to get off the $#@*&ing bridge!!!!!).  He explained that I was really tying up weekend/rush hour traffic and he didn't think 10 mph for 10 more miles was in the plan.  We discussed calling a heavy duty wrecker, but decided that would just tie up traffic for a long time too.  The one lucky break in all this was that I had eased far enough across the bridge that the one other on/off bit of dry ground was coming up in 2 miles.  If I could get it up to 20 or 30 mph and get over the Whiskey Bay part of the bridge, he would tail me until I got off safely.  
Good plan.
Once I was safely off the bridge, Tony and our RoadService guys coordinated and called in my Knight in Shining Repair Truck.  

Knight's name was JR and I knew he had arrived by the raucous sound waves of Zydeco that proceeded his actual appearance.
JR hopped out and set to work immediately.  The fact that we were fully loaded didn't even make him pause.  He started unloading equipment and had the trailer jacked up and was removing the outside wheel before I could even get the camera focused.

This is the air driven thingy that was used to remove and eventually replace the lug nuts holding those monsters on.  

Zip, zip, zip and the bad wheel was off . . . 

JR worked so fast that his hands were blurs in all of the photos I shot.  In this one, he is working both hands AND both feet.  
A mere 30 minutes and we were on our way.
Since these photos, we have been to Atlanta to Miami to Minnesota to Illinois and are now in The Rockies on our way to Los Angeles - gotta keep moving or we'll rust!


The Daily Rant said...

Wow! On the bridge?? I don't like that bridge....that swamp is just plain creepy. lol

I had a tire blowout too....actually, TWO of them, which were also on the trailer. It wasn't too big a deal but I kept thinking, "Thank God it wasn't a steer tire!"

Sounds like you had a pretty quick repair...thank goodness for those Knights in shining

Ring said...

Hello Y'all,

Well it's biker week and also Garth Park. It's almost like spring break with people everywhere
and no bloody Lone Star at the Kiva!

We are all getting a kick out of following your adventures.