The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

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    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
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    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
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    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Floyd Vincent and Mary Falvo working as pilot car drivers 2008.07.23

Written by David Green.


Floyd Vincent seems an unlikely choice for a pilot car driver. He readily admits to something that just doesn’t fit.

“I don’t really like to drive,” said the rural Wauseon resident. “I just don’t enjoy it.”

But it brings in some extra cash and there are certainly worse ways to make money. Besides that, the view is constantly changing.

“It’s nice to see different sights,” Floyd said, and that’s something a pilot car driver is always experiencing.

They’re the people with the “Wide Load” signs driving ahead of and behind a semi-truck carrying a manufactured home or an enormous culvert or any of a myriad of large items along the highway.vincent.pilot_car.jpg

Hauling manufactured homes is where Floyd got his start in the business. He accompanied homes delivered by Continental Estates of Wauseon.

After a couple of years, he went out on his own, forming his own service under the name Penny’s Pilot Car, operated by Floyd’s wife, Connie.

It’s more of a family affair than that. Floyd’s daughter, Mary Falvo, is also in the business.

For Floyd, it’s a part-time endeavor. After all, he has to be back to the pulpit every Sunday at the East Chesterfield Church and the Winameg Christian Church.

Mary, on the other hand, is trying to make it into a full-time job. She approached the job as a part-time endeavor a year ago, but now she’s on the road a lot.

Getting started

To become a pilot car driver, the most important piece of equipment is a dependable vehicle. In addition, a car must carry signs, flags and cones to use in the case of a breakdown; a safety vest and hard hat for the driver; a fire extinguisher; and communication equipment such as a CB radio and cell phone. A light bar for the top of the car is also an essential investment for drivers.

Training can come through books and classroom time, but an excellent introduction comes from traveling with another driver.

“The best thing is if you know someone in the business,” Floyd said.

“Sometimes they’ll let you travel with them to see if you really like it,” Mary added.

Certification courses are required for some states, notably Utah which has the toughest regulations.

“If you’re good for Utah, you’re good for any state,” Mary said. “They have the most restrictions.”

Every state is different, Floyd noted. He picked up a load at the Blue Water Bridge in Michigan and accompanied the truck to the Indiana state line. He was done at that point because that particular load didn’t need an escort in Indiana.

Too wide, too long, too tall—the definition of oversize varies all across the country. Some loads require one escort, others need two.

Some drivers provide “high pole” service—a pole mounted on the vehicle that detects wires or a bridge that are too low for the load.

On the road

Once on the road, the pilot car driver provides two services: warning other drivers about the oversize load; warning the driver of the truck about obstacles ahead.

The job entails a lot more than just sitting back and driving.

“There’s continuous contact between the driver and the escort by CB,” Mary said. “Your main job is to keep the motoring public safe and the load and its driver safe.”

Narrow bridges, pedestrians, bicyclists, buggies in Amish country—a truck driver needs to be aware of any impending difficulty.

The lead driver also needs to pay attention to road signs and make sure the travelers stay on their route.

“We’re there to watch out for all those things,” Floyd said, emphasizing the responsibilities of the job.

If a breakdown occurs, the pilot car driver takes on a new role—but once again, that depends on where the breakdown occurs. In some states, pilots are out directing traffic; in other states, they’re not allowed to.

Floyd limits his travel due to his duties as a pastor. He’s visited 10 states, but never travels too far away. The day his trip ended at the Indiana border, he immediately picked up another job by driving north to Ludington.

Mary, with more time and fewer commitments, is willing to travel most anywhere. She was out in Arizona when she landed another trip back east to Kentucky. Floyd once found the perfect situation. He was far from home when he was assigned to a load heading to Wauseon.

When a trip ends, a pilot can wait around in hopes of getting another job—by keeping in touch with a broker—or give up and head back home alone, an act known as deadheading.

Sometimes Floyd’s wife goes along on the job and then he’s more willing to wait a night or two in hopes of something else.

“Sometimes you think it’s a day run,” Mary said, “and then you get another job. You never know how long it’s going to be.”

That’s all right with her.

“I like to travel and I like to drive,” she said. “If you work really hard one week, you can take a couple of days off.”

She has a flexible schedule and she can turn down a job if she wants.

In recent weeks, Floyd and Mary haven’t had quite as much choice. Higher fuel prices combined with a slow economy have reduced truck traffic.

They remain ready to leave at a moment’s notice whenever a call comes in. The car is always gassed up and Floyd has a duffel bag packed in his car.

Mobile homes, bridge beams, bases for wind turbines, factory equipment, giant farm equipment, steel beams—whatever it might be, Floyd and Mary are ready to serve as guides on the journey.

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