Although I did not know it at the time, the trip I drove west from Wisconsin to California during the winter of 1968 would be the last time my 1965 International Emeryville would be in California. I scheduled a load from Jerome Foods of Barron, WI, to the Safeway distribution center in Richmond, CA, for my IH Model DCOF 405 and 38-foot Trailmobile reefer. For this trip my co-driver was Ron Willencamp, probably the smoothest driver I ever teamed with. If we had good weather and no mechanical problems, we could make it to the West Coast in 60 hours.
The Emeryville had a Cummins 250 with a T50 turbo added and an R96 Roadranger transmission. I had added insulation behind the cardboard interior of the cab and had installed door panels, a dog house cover, and a winter front from East St. Louis. This made the cab warm and quiet.
In Elko, NV, the Cummins engine developed a bad vibration, so we stopped at Bill & Effie’s Truck Stop on the west side of town and got the name of a mobile mechanic. He checked the truck and when he felt the exhaust manifold he told me I had a dead cylinder. When he removed the rocker cover he found a bent push rod, caused by a seized injector. However, in less than two hours, he had it fixed and we were on our way again. Cummins in Milwaukee had just replaced the six injectors four days earlier, so they gave me full credit for the Elko repair. The following morning, we delivered our load in Richmond.
While en-route we had checked with Jenaro Bros. Brokerage in Los Angeles to line up a return load. They did not have anything that was headed for Milwaukee, but they did have a load in Fresno that was bound for Super Value in Fargo, ND (ordinarily I did not drive to California after the soft fruit loads ended – during the winter, the haul would be lettuce or oranges, which didn’t pay as much).
We loaded in Fresno, checked our weight to be sure we were okay, and by 9:00 p.m. we were heading north on Route 99. When we stopped at a state scale, Ron woke me up because they wanted the owner of the truck to come inside. So, I got dressed and went inside, just to be informed that the chrome covers on my headlights were illegal.
As we got to Morgan, UT, we found the roads going east were snow covered from a storm that had come through twelve hours earlier. Behind the storm was an Arctic cold wave; the temperature outside was zero and falling. We added de-icer to the Thermo-King’s gas tank and turned the thermostat up so the Onan engine didn’t shut off. Along the way, we saw several freight-hauling semis off the road that had probably strayed during a whiteout. Drivers of other trucks that had been shut off during the snowstorm were outside trying to get them started – at 20 below zero!
When we made it to Fargo and delivered our load, the temperature was 35 below zero. I had called Scott’s Truck Brokerage in Grand Forks, ND while en-route and set up a load of potatoes going to Detroit, MI. But, when I called in, Scott’s said they were not loading anything, since it was too cold to even open the warehouse doors. Let me tell you, it was bone-chilling cold.
At that time, most of the Red River Valley potato sheds were earth-mound structures with a chute coming up from one end. The semi would back up to it and then four or five people would work in the trailer, carrying the 100-lb. bags forward, as they came off a conveyor belt. No one knew when they would be able to load, so Ron and I decided to go home empty. It was only 500 miles, and we’d be home by morning.
This was the last time I would take the old Emeryville to California. The following spring, Chili Feed Mill in Chili, WI, purchased the truck from me. On my next trip west, I was driving my new 352 Peterbilt equipped with a rooftop air conditioner and pulling a 40-foot Trailmobile, but I will never
forget that run west in my Emeryville. Those were the days!
This story and photo is by Ron Ebert of Clintonville, WI. We would like to thank Shirley Sponholtz of Old Time Trucks for sharing this old story with us so we could share it with you. It originally appeared in her publication back in December of 2005.