Rick Pickar likes the variety of plowing snow for the Minnesota Department of Transportation during the winter. Normally a bridge worker during the other three seasons, Pickar says the winter work breaks up a long season.
When Pickar climbs into a MnDOT snowplow, he is known on the radio as Bridge 3. Now he is behind the wheel of a heavy truck filled with sand and salt and equipped with three blades.
Normally trucks are filled with fuel at the MnDOT headquarters but during Tuesday's snowstorm, Rick Pickar and Chuck Thesing filled on the run at SuperAmerica in south Brainerd.
He has a route that takes him from the MnDOT headquarters in Baxter to Deerwood. The trip usually takes about two hours depending on how much turn lane work he has to do. On a good day, Pickar can make the trip three times.
He holds a Class A license that qualifies him for the road work. With all the heavy sand and blades, the truck can be tricky to handle on icy roads and he says that after a night of driving with the strobe lights blinking he is tired and had enough for the shift.
When he teams up with another driver, they can clean the left turn lanes and most of the highway with one pass from the two trucks.
Rick Pickar, with his left hand on the wheel and his right hand on the controls for the blade pitch, has been plowing snow 11 years for MnDOT.
With his friend Chuck Thesing in front of him, Rick Pickar took the right lane on Washington Street as they plowed in tandem into west Brainerd from Baxter.
During the afternoon shift, each snowplow driver must load his or her truck with a salt and sand mixture before leaving on their route. Pickar's route takes about two hours and encompasses Baxter, Brainerd, Crosby-Ironton and Deerwood.
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