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Driver of 217 Foot Long ‘Super Load’ Surprised By Attention
LOCK HAVEN, Pa. (EYT) – Don Bretthorst isn’t accustomed to being a celebrity, but the man who drove the super load from the Port of Erie to its destination in Lock Haven now gets recognized when he goes shopping in Walmart.
(PHOTO: Don and Gail Bretthorst. Courtesy Gail Bretthorst.)
Bretthorst and his wife, Gail, own D & G Heavy Haul, of Valparaiso, Indiana, – the business that was contracted to move the super load.
“I usually get to be number one,” Bretthorst said. “If you understand what I mean. Usually people use the middle finger on their hand to wave.”
That didn’t happen during the 12-day super load trip that began on Thursday, December 5, in Erie, and ended in Lock Haven on Monday, December 16 … even though the super load’s top speed was 15-miles-per-hour.
People turned out along the route, including the Fryburg community, to get a look at the 217-foot-long contraption taking a Yankee Dryer to the First Quality tissue plant in Lock Haven. The Yankee Dryer, just as its name suggests, is used to remove the moisture from tissue paper.
(Photo below by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photography.) The super load spent the night at the Washington Township Fire Hall in Fryburg.)
The load weighed 628,000 pounds and measured 20 feet tall.
Far from being a leisurely drive, Bretthorst, who turned 65 on Thursday, said that he had to be on the lookout for what was coming next constantly.
In addition to driving the truck, Bretthorst said he used a remote control to steer the first four axles on the trailer. Another remote control adjusted the size of the load, depending on the terrain.
He also raised the trailer so it could clear elevated railroad tracks or expand the width of the trailer, so it evenly distributed the weight as it went over bridges.
(Photo by Dave Cyphert of ProPoint Media Photography)
In addition to the remotes, Bretthorst said he was responsible for providing CB radios to the state police who escorted the superload.
“I bought 10 extra CB radios,” he said, stressing he didn’t want a malfunctioning radio to delay the load. “I left home with three packs of 90 batteries each, so I had 270 spare batteries.”
Although he didn’t use half of them, Bretthorst believes in being prepared, which led to the next challenge — twisting two-lane roads that didn’t allow him to see what may be ahead.
“When you’re in the mountains here in Pennsylvania, especially on two-lane roads, the road is so windy, I can’t see what’s in front of me,” he said.
He used the mountain grade near Lamar as an example. It’s a six-mile climb at an eight percent grade.
“You have to be in the right gear at the bottom of the mountain. You cannot shift fast enough on the way up. The truck will come to a stop. So, a long grade like that, you have to put it in second gear and maintain the same speed from the bottom to the top, which is about three-and-a-half miles per hour.”
While Bretthorst was on the road, his wife, Gail, was home taking care of paperwork and emergencies. She explained that while the journey took 12 days, the process leading up to it took two years.
“We had to submit routes we proposed for the trip, and they would get denied,” she said. “Then, we would come back with another proposal. I call myself the ‘Queen of Denial.’”
She followed along as best she could by video chatting with her husband and watching the Facebook group Super-Load 2019, which has 3,500 members. She said she was astounded by the attention.
“I knew we were going to be under a microscope,” she said. “I never in my wildest dreams thought it would be like it was. It was overwhelming.”
She referred to pictures on the Facebook page of children creating the super load with their toys. One person even posted a super load being driven by the Elf on the Shelf.
Then, there were the people who came out along the route to watch the super load pass and wave at Bretthorst.
“We move super loads all the time,” Gail said. “I’ve never seen one have a following like this. Never, ever, ever have I seen people come out like this. It was pretty crazy.”
The super load arrived at its destination on Monday, December 16, but it took Bretthorst until Friday to get the trailer ready for its ride home to Indiana.
The trip was supposed to have taken place this summer. However, the flooding the state experienced not only caused the dates of the trip to change but the route as well.
“I was supposed to do a lot more miles on U.S. Route 22, which got flooded out,” he said. “It won’t be completely open till next summer. That’s one of the reasons it took so long to plan. We had to make changes after the floods.”
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