It’s always been one of my rules to stop at the brake check areas on certain mountain passes. Lookout is one of those areas.
Now, Lookout ain’t a good place to be stupid, even in the summer. Just off the top there’s a 1055 foot drop-off on the right and a fairly sharp curve, but the grade is only about 2% down. The scenery up there is beautiful, but the guardrail leaves a bit to be desired, there ain’t nothing more’n a bunch of two foot tall posts with a cable stretched between. I’ve seen better garden fences. After that comes a set of curves and the grade goes to 7%. Then the road straightens out, the grade drops to 6 percent. In the four and a half mile of 6% average, ya drop 1366 feet to the town of Mullen, Idaho.
Brake check areas are usually just wide, level places on the very top of a pass where truckers can stop and check the brakes, adjusting them if necessary. Most good truckers stop, but there is a new breed of folks drivin truck that are nothing more’n steering wheel holders. Two guys in a Mack cabover pretty much fit the description of the latter.
I had stopped, not to adjust brakes, but to hang iron. The trip up the hill wasn’t too bad, but the last half-mile before the summit was snow covered ice. The west side of the mountain was heavy ice with about six inches of hard-packed snow. Just getting outta the truck gave me the secure feelin of a cow on roller skates. I got the tire chains down from the headache rack and with a lot of cussin and discussin, managed to get them on the rear drive axle tires and the front set of trailer tires. When I was back in the cab, drinkin coffee and tryin to thaw out when a Mack truck drove past me and headed down the hill at about 5 MPH. Not wantin to be behind a Mack (Just plain embarassin), I eased out onto the slab and headed down.
I caught up with the Mack about 100 yards down the mountain. The trailer brakes were locked up tight and they were slidin slowly towards the little white posts with the cable stretched between and the 1000 foot drop. The drive axels were rollin forward, then snappin backwards as the torque in the driveline overcame the traction on the road, the driver had his little white Mack in reverse!
I dropped out to the Monfort lane (trucker talk for the left lane) and eased up next to the Mack’s cab. What I saw scared the daylights outta me! The driver had a BAD case of White Knuckle Syndrome and was pushed back in his seat from standin on the brake pedal. I grabbed the CB mic and asked if he needed help. He looked at me with eyes the size of coffee cups and nodded! I reckon that meant YES!
I told him to do EXACTLY what I told him and not to grab for the CB till I told him it was OK, he nodded again. I told him to get OFF the brakes, he shook his head “NO,” but I told him he was slidin towards a drop-off and he needed to get his wheels rollin again…he complied. Next was to pull down on the trailer brake valve, when I saw his tires slidin I told him to ease up a bit. Then I told him to put the tranny in the highest gear he had to get the drive tires rollin forward, then downshift normally till he was in Granny gear and just drive the truck downhill normally. Once he got everything straightened out, I told him it was his turn to talk…he declined. About another mile, the snow turned to rain and I told him to start up-shifting till he got to 45 MPH and hold it there…he declined.
I waited in Mullen for about a half-hour at a 7-11 drinkin coffee and waitin for him. He never got there; I figure he musta stopped at the laundro-mat at the edge of town.