By Michael Busselen
When we bought Woodhawk Vineyards in 2020 our plan was to eventually transition from growing grapes to also making wine. Some really good wine. Maybe even some great wine.
So last week, I made yet another trip up to Woodhawk from our home in Danville and along the way I picked up something called a macro bin. In my case, it was a one-ton insulated macro bin with a lid. It’s a giant plastic box that holds up to one ton of grapes – and allows you to ferment them in place if you don’t have a steel tank to do the job.
The helpful folks at Central Valley Ag Supply loaded a macro bin up into the bed of my truck for me using a forklift. It was a tight fit – I had less than an inch of clearance on each side.
They gave me the lid, and it looked like it would be a tough fit in the cab so they suggested I snap it on the bin and then tie it on with a strap. So I carefully strapped the lid to the macro bin. And off we went to the vineyard.
I pulled onto Highway 101 in Healdsburg headed north and I checked the rear view mirror. I could see the strap around the lid was taught. I checked my cargo camera I could see the lid was still firmly in place. Perfect.
About sixty seconds later movement caught my eye and I looked back up at the mirror. As I watched in horror, the ENTIRE macro bin lifted up out of the bed of my truck and went tumbling over the back hatch. Onto the freeway! At 65 miles an hour!
I took my foot off the gas and watched as the bin, almost like a giant die on a craps table, tumbled end over end crazily down the middle of the freeway. Cars swerved. Trucks came to a stop. I could hear brakes. But miraculously this giant cube didn’t hit anyone I could see – and no cars hit each other in the chaos.
As I looked up at the freeway, I saw I had passed an exit – so I was going to need to go up to the next exit (2 miles) to get turned around. I looked at my mirror one more time and could see the bin had come to a stop in the slow lane of the freeway. Now my task was to try and get back to it before someone hit it.
So turned around at the next exit and swallowed hard as I approached where the bin had landed. As I looked over the median, I could see it still sitting there, right in the middle of the slow lane, with traffic in the fast lane speeding by at 65 (or more) and cars in the slow lane slowing and passing it on the shoulder.
I sped up, made it to the next exit, turned around and approached where I had last saw the bin. Several hundred yards ahead of me there it was – sitting in the middle of the slow lane – a beige cube on a river of asphalt.
I hit my hazards, drove around it, and parked on the shoulder about 20 yards in front of it. As cars flew past me, I walked back to where it sat, being careful not to get in the way of any traffic trying to get around it.
And I stood there. How on earth was I going to get this thing off the freeway? I wasn’t even sure I could slide it by myself.
That’s when a Jeep pulled over. Out hopped a woman a few years younger than me. “Can I help?” she yelled over the traffic? “Sure” I said. “Can you help me pull it onto the shoulder?”
She nodded and held up a hand at an approaching semi-trailer truck. He waved at us and hit his emergency blinkers. And then slowly came to stop just a few feet from the bin, blocking traffic for us.
We ran out, both grabbed the bin, and started pulling and pushing. And it moved – quite easily actually. It just kind of slid on the asphalt. A minute later we had it on the shoulder. We waved to the trucker, and he drove on.
“Is it yours?” she yelled. “Yep,” I yelled back. “Can you help me pull it to my truck?” She nodded, and together we push/pulled it 20 yards or so down the freeway. And then we both stopped and looked at each other.
“I don’t know if we can lift it” I said. Her response – “Let’s try.” So we both bent our legs and gave it one giant push. And it started sliding up into the truck. She turned around and used her back and I gave it everything I had – and then it was back in the bed.
I turned to my Samaritan and asked her name. “Susan” she said. “No one ever stops anymore. I always stop unless the weather is really bad.”
I thanked her profusely for the help. She asked me if I need cords to tie down my (slightly banged up) macro bin and I sheepishly said, “No, I have plenty. This time I am going to use them.”
She said goodbye and drove off, and up I jumped in the bed to strap this thing down so not even a hurricane could move it. I was nearly done when another car pulled up behind me – an officer of the California Highway Patrol so young he looked like a teenager to me.
I looked up from my task and shouted “Hello.” He approached and asked me if I was just fixing a loose load (yes), had it fallen off (yes), did it hit anything (no), was it empty (yes) and did I need his help (no).
He offered to sit in his car with his lights on while I finished my task, to give me a little extra protection from someone hitting me. I thanked him.
I finished up, triple checked my work, slammed the gate shut and hoped back in the cab. And 30 minutes later our first macro bin was safe in our barn – only a little worse for wear. Thankfully all the damage was just external and cosmetic; we can still use it to make our first batch of wine this year.
I hope the rest of my errands are less eventful.