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WILTON – Stuck in a Farmington motel for four days with nothing to do but wait for Monday, three tractor-trailer drivers and their escorts say they find a sense of humor goes a long way.
Three rigs hauling windmill bases from Oakfield in Aroostook County to Utah have been parked in a truck weigh station on Route 2 in Wilton since Sunday while the drivers wait on permits, curfews and weather.
They will miss Christmas with their families, but the drivers hope to leave Monday, they said Wednesday.
The six drivers are getting along well on their first trip together, but a good sense of humor really helps, said Stephen Atkinson, an escort driver from New York, who goes ahead of the loaded trailers testing heights and road conditions and warning drivers of the wide load approaching.
“It you don’t have a sense of humor, you’re fired,” rig driver Milton Bond of Texas said.
The three rig drivers, Bond, John Sacrison of South Dakota and Ben Gridley of Texas, work for East River, based in South Dakota, and drive trucks owned by Kent and Helen Mauck. The escort drivers work independently.
Bond said they are used to long stints away from family, with some averaging 350 days a year on the road. He had a grandchild born this week but didn’t think he’d make it home until April, Bond said.
After finishing a job in Canada, they arrived in Oakfield on Dec. 13 when most of the state got heavy rain over snow-laden ground, they said. High water slowed their start, and they reached Bangor on Sunday.
The plan was to drive the windmill bases to Buffalo, N.Y., then cross the Great Lakes by barge to Wisconsin, then on to Utah, Sacrison said.
The Great Lakes are too frozen for barges, so plans changed: They’ll drive straight through to Utah once they have the needed permits to cross New Hampshire and when the weather improves, Sacrison said. The men also have to work around curfews imposed on trucks driven through parts of New Hampshire and New York.
One of the escort drivers drove all the way to the Maine-New Hampshire border looking for a space to store the trailers with loaded bases, but the Wilton site was the only place large enough, he said.
Each trailer is 112 feet long and loaded with a 90-foot base that weighs about 122,000 pounds. The loads are about 15 feet wide and almost 16 feet tall.
The wind turbine components, owned by General Electric, are on the move because a project set for Aroostook was canceled. The move involves 40 loads and about 150 trucks, the men said.
It takes nine truckloads to move a wind turbine, including the base, the individual blades, a top piece and a generator, Sacrison said.
“We’re the wind energy guys who specialize in moving these pieces,” he said. Once they reach Utah, they’ll drive back to Oakfield and do it all again.
Gridley is accompanied by his wife, Cathy, on this trip. “At least we’re together all the time,” she said.
Atkinson said he appreciated the way Maine drivers move over and allow the large loads through. He was also appreciative of the hospitality found locally at the Colonial Valley Motel and at area stores and restaurants, he said.
The other escort drivers are Marcus Teixira of Connecticut and Lonnie McKinney of Texas, who said he misses his 2-year-old child this holiday.
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