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Heavy Haulage: Small Towns

So I told you we had three small towns to get through before day three was out didn’t I? Yes of course I did. Well Cain, the second town we had to pass through was more difficult than it looked on paper.

Often towns are bypassed by highways to cut down on congestion and traffic for locals but also to allow long distance travellers longer distances at the higher speed limit to make their journeys smoother and quicker. It’s often the local town residents themselves who put forward the complaints that too much through traffic wants to travel at high speed through their town and spoil it. The roads corporations and governments know bypasses are effective even when they have to acquire land for the road and pay huge sums of money for them to be built. The travellers are often happier for the unimpeded run but ironically it’s often those that complained about the traffic to be the hardest hit when travellers no longer stop for rest breaks or fuel in their small towns. Many a town in this country has suffered poorly, some nearly becoming ghost towns, when highways by passed them.

Cain however is one of those towns that will never be bypassed by the highway. The problem for Cain, well the roads corporations and the road users, was that there was no where for a bypass to go. They had done studies and surveys but they found that because of coal reserves, water courses and other environmental impacts that the closest they could get the bypass to the town was thirty two kilometres and it would add nearly fifty kilometres to the highway trip. They don’t mind making bypasses longer than the direct roads but fifty kilometres was pushing it.

What it meant for Cain was that they had to adapt to changing traffic needs. That meant they had to widen the main road, pulling up the grassed median strip through the centre of town and allowing room for six lanes of traffic. They kept traffic lights and road side parking on the main street, which is the Northwest highway, but all overhead power lines were removed. The road gets regular maintenance and is as smooth as a baby’s bum most of the time because unlike most country roads where they use a mix of stone and liquid tar to reseal the roads the entire stretch of highway through Cain is hotmix (asphalt like tennis courts are made from). It’s outrageously expensive to lay such a long stretch, with prices surpassing a million dollars per kilometre just for the surface but it’s just one of the sacrifices that had to be made when they realised they couldn’t bypass the town.

So what does all those lessons in roads mean to us? Well basically it means we had a straight run through the town of Cain. It means we have a smooth road all the way through the town. It means we don’t have to worry about power lines hitting our high load and it means we don’t need to worry about cars parked on the side of the road. The speed limit through town, which is sixty, wasn’t a concern to us either and thanks to the six lanes we didn’t even need to close off the entire road.

So why am I giving the town such detail when it appears we could pretty much drive straight through it without a problem? Well because I am a drama queen! Well yeah maybe I am, I like building things up, making them exciting, making people interested. Is it working? Too bad if it isn’t! So hang around and see what it was about Cain that made things so difficult.

It’s not often that you get to a country town and the road actually widens, quite often it will drop from dual lanes to single lanes in each direction, but Cain was different. As I told you it’s a six lane road through town so unlike other towns we go almost immediately from single lanes to six lanes, four used for regular traffic and a large shoulder between the traffic and the road side parking. The police and local council gave us two and a half lanes and split the remaining lanes and shoulder on the opposite side of the road for a single lane of traffic in each direction. It made it a little difficult when we tried to cross back to dual lanes on the other side of town because traffic didn’t want to get caught behind us but it was still one of the less stressful parts of our trip.

With constant radio contact to let every one know what I was doing I slowed the truck down to thirty kilometres per hour. Phil was at about his limit in front of me, nearly a hundred metres, he’d moved ahead for a reason, and Millie was running about sixty metres behind Corey’s rig, he’d pull up closer before we got into the middle of town. We’d slow the rig down below twenty as we passed through the main part of town, not because we had to but because we wanted to.

Although Phil was ahead I could see everything that happened clearly.

Without stopping the two rear doors of Phil’s ute opened and Angus and Stan jumped out of the moving vehicle. Immediately Phil slowed down, both men bolted off in front of the ute, Angus crossing in front if it. They both ran as fast as they could across the road to the left, onto the footpath and within seconds were disappearing into one of the local shops.

Less than ten seconds later Angus and Stan came bolting out of the shop as if they were bank robbers each one held several bags in their hands. Angus bolted along the road, I couldn’t see him but I knew he was running towards Millie’s ute. Stan on the other hand must have drawn the long straw because he didn’t have to run as far. While Millie was running around the big load Stan ran almost straight across the road to my truck, leapt onto the passenger side step and opened the door.

It wasn’t as dangerous as it sounds, we weren’t moving that fast, sure he could have slipped and fallen on his arse but honestly you could get hit by a flying donkey turd tomorrow and it could kill you but you don’t stop doing things just because it could happen.

Thanks to the forward momentum and Angus’ speed, at the same time as Stan was opening my passenger door Angus would have been reaching the rear pilot.

“There ya go Matt!” Stan said as he reached in and handed a plastic bag to me. He then shut the door, climbed off the slow moving truck and bolted toward the ute he’d gotten out of less than three minutes before.

While Stan was making his delivery Angus was doing something similar behind the large load but he had two deliveries to make, one to the rear pilot and one to Corey.

Less than a minute later Angus was running beside my truck waving at me and headed toward the front pilot.

Less than five minutes, a bit of shoe rubber worn and two puffed and panting co-workers and we were heading towards the end of Cain CBD.

Oh, did I fail to mention that as well as being a town that was never going to be bypassed Cain also sold THE BEST meat pies and snotblocks in the entire world?

Previous Heavy Haulage story here.

2 Comments

  1. Deanna

    “smooth as a baby’s bum“ is never going to be a good description of a road. Nope.

    Ok, I cave, what is a snotblocker?

    • It’s been a while since I saw a baby’s bum but a lot of country roads are pretty darn rough so one that doesn’t have many bumps has to be close.

      You’ll have to tune in next week for what a snotblock is because I can’t give away the story. I have to drag this story out until I find something else to write about 😛

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