Utah! Back to work ― no more relaxing in Colorado with Chris Burkard.
This week’s adventure took me to Salt Lake City, Utah, to visit Wheeler Machinery. Wheeler is a fantastic Cat dealer filled to the brim with impressive people who love their customers as much as they do Cat yellow. What a week!
After a brief 11-hour drive, I arrived in SLC. I’ve met a lot of great people through Instagram, and one of those people is Ryan with Rock Structures Utility & Excavating. He and his wife were kind enough to let me stay at their home for the entire week, so I thought I’d give him a shoutout. Check him out if you haven’t already @rockstructures on Instagram, or read more here. He has more followers than any other contractor on Instagram…
Tuesday morning arrived quickly, and I began the day photographing Wheeler’s yard as the sun slowly rose over the valley. Equipment of every variety, new and used, was sprawled out across their enormous yard. Saying I was like a kid in a candy store doesn’t do it much justice. After the yard, I perused their extensive shops, trying to capture technicians toiling away on machines, engines, and raw metal. Most techs run the other way when they see me with a camera ― it’s a fun challenge!
I spent the remainder of Tuesday with Wheeler salesman Jeff, who drove me around the valley to visit a few of his best customers. Jeff’s a younger salesman who’s as honest as they come, and he truly takes pride in helping his customers any way he can. We visited a site development contractor, a landscaper, and a midsize civil contractor over the course of an afternoon. I’m used to big mines and earthmoving operations, but these smaller sites are a welcome, more intimate experience. Jeff knew everyone on every site we visited, and I was lucky enough to meet some great people who make SLC a better place every day of the year.
These trips are currently my life, and they’re nothing short of exhausting. I get home to countless emails and a long to-do list. Late nights are followed by early mornings, and another long day of doing it all over again. As tiring as the 12-15 hour days are, I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.
Day two was filled with site visits courtesy of Brandon, a SITECH and Trimble extraordinaire. We visited contractor W.W. Clyde on multiple road projects in the morning. Nearly every finishing machine on their sites was equipped with the latest GPS equipment from Trimble. W.W. Clyde also owns Geneva Rock, whose aggregate pit in Draper is well-known and one I’ve wanted to visit since my first trip to SLC. I asked if we could stop by before lunch and sure enough, we did just that! I’d always rather be told no than to not ask in fear of a no.
Geneva Rock’s facility was one of the most spectacular sand and gravel operations I’ve ever seen. Two D11T’s slot dozing material toward two 988K loaders feeding rigid-frame trucks. Those trucks would then reverse a few hundred feet to the edge, and dump the material to feed three more 988 loaders. The three loaders performed a choreographed dance with one another to continuously load two hoppers within a tight space. All the material rushed down an enormous gravity-fed conveyor to the plant. Fun fact ― the conveyor produces all the electricity needed for the entire facility and then some. It was incredible!
Day three was a unique one with Monsen Engineering ― less dirt and more technology. I was lucky enough to visit the new Salt Lake City airport expansion project, and then spend time at the Monsen office with their great people. Admittedly, I was out of my league (dirt up the wazoo is my comfort zone) but I enjoyed meeting everyone nonetheless!
My last day started off with another 3AM wake up to drive south toward St. George. My first stop was to visit another Wheeler and SITECH customer working within the boundaries of Zion National Park. Zion is one of my favorite places on planet Earth, and photographing heavy equipment moving Zion’s red dirt with its towering walls above was something I’ll never forget. Experiences like this make all the early mornings and late nights more than worthwhile!
Lastly, before heading back to Phoenix, I visited Prime Excavating, a local St. George utility and excavation contractor. Their machines were some of the cleanest I’ve ever seen, and a majority of their workforce was younger people. Companies like this are the future of the industry. They even had some homegrown ingenuity ― a custom blade attachment for their excavator that they built themselves. I couldn’t love this attachment more, and they even let me give it a try!
And just like that, I was on my way home to Phoenix. Cue the podcasts and long stretches of desert nothingness. A ten-hour drive is nearly normal these days…
Next week I’m in Phoenix and am lucky enough to attend an Arizona Mining Association meeting ― lots more dirt on the way!