Wirtgen operator's perspective

Travis Groesbeck from California

Hello fellow Wirtgen Operators! My name is Travis Groesbeck. I live in Sacramento, California, USA. I have a beautiful fiancée, an 18-year-old son, and an 8-year-old daughter. I love being outdoors. Camping and travelling, mountain biking, photography. I enjoy all of these things but spending time with friends and family is the most important. They are why I go to work every day. Speaking of, I have been working in the soil stabilization industry for 20 years now. 

My favorite machine is definitely the Wirtgen WR 250i

I remember it all too well. It was the fall of 2015. I was sitting on top of a CMI RS650 after grinding asphalt all night, alongside the Truckee River. Truckee is a beautiful little town up in the mountains of northern California, USA. It is also a cold little town! We were working nights. I was frozen solid. The wind whipped through the canyon and cut right through my sweaters, jacket, gloves and beanie like a million little knives. I hugged the exhaust pipe just to thaw out enough so that I could climb down the steps. And then start doing maintenance. At least changing teeth would warm me up! That next day, I paid waaaay too much for a new pair of insulated coveralls.

The next week, a shiny and brand new WR240i arrived. The seats were still wrapped in plastic. It had that new machine smell! I was very excited to start using it. Work was very busy, so I quickly got my chance. I was in it every day. It did not take me long to get used to the controls, as they are very user friendly.  The cameras, automatic water, and rotor spinning device were some of my favorite features. Aside from the AC and radio, that is!! Manoeuvrability is amazing. Steering the front and rear wheels separately makes this machine feel like it can turn on a dime. All those things combine to make one outstanding machine. 

A few years later I was able to switch up to the 250i, and the good only got better! More power with the CAT engine, no DEF, and 2 speed rotor gearbox, for the win! I have never worn those insulated coveralls since!

So many years doing the same thing, there are certainly some jobs that I like more than others. Some are in beautiful locations like Yosemite National Park, or on the beach next to the ocean. Some are down in a pit, cement-treating pond bottoms or basements of buildings. Football or baseball fields are cool! I like foamed bitumen jobs because we normally get a big crew together. 2 foamers, 2 ground men,2 water truck drivers, a spreader, a compactor, and of course, the boss man too! It may sound cliché, but my absolute favorite jobs are the ones where we are able to solve a problem for the customer and all go home safely at the end of the day.

There is one job that sticks out in my mind as one of the toughest. A little, one-lane road, winding through the northern California foothills, Jesus Maria Road

Very windy and narrow, with many rocky and cliffy areas. Not much room for equipment to pass.  One way in, and not enough room to turn around. So, everybody had to pass through the work zone to exit. It was a 9” FDR job. Keeping the cement from sliding down the side of the hill was tricky sometimes. It was slow going and tedious, but communication was the key! What made it so hard was that there wasn’t any cell phone service. We finally made it through that job, and now it has become one of my favourites because of all the challenges it presented that we were able to overcome. Plus, it gave me a nice backdrop for my pictures!  P.S. Grinding super hard asphalt is my least favourite thing to do, no matter how pretty the scenery is!

We finally made it through that job, and now it has become one of my favourites because of all the challenges it presented that we were able to overcome.

What it comes down to though, is that it’s really all about the subgrade for us. The ground. The dirt. Many people forget about the dirt. But, if you want to build a road or a building pad, using the dirt that is already there is normally the easiest, cheapest, and quickest solution. But sometimes the existing soil is unsuitable. In that situation we can stabilize it by adding a binder, such as Lime or Cement. By injecting water into the mixing chamber along with the dirt and binder, and bringing it to the optimum moisture content, we create a homogenous blend from the top to bottom of the stabilized section. Compact it, and voila! Now you have a suitable base! Vastly minimizing importing and exporting!

Foamed bitumen or mixing in bentonite are some of the other processes that I have helped in recently. Every project is a little different, but the engineers will take samples beforehand to determine how much of which to add, to achieve the highest breaking points. Spread and mix, re-mix and compact. Repeat.

In almost every project I’m on, we are reusing the materials that are already there. We are transforming them into something usable that would otherwise be a waste. This is why I believe that pavement recycling has such a big future in the United States. And here are a few more reasons:

  • Sustainability – This is the ability to use our resources in a responsible way; to meet our current needs and to preserve the supply for future generations reusing what we can, will greatly reduce what extra we will need.
  • Recycling materials – This goes hand in hand with sustainability. The more materials that we reuse onsite, the less that we pull out of the planet. Think FDR, foamed bitumen, or using treated native soils. For every 1 load of cement spread using onsite subgrade, eliminates approximately 40 loads of material being hauled in and out for an over-ex!
  • Reduced community impact – Now you may only have 7 or 8 loads of cement coming in each day, instead of 200-300 rock truck loads. These trucks are creating extra traffic, emissions, and unnecessary wear on the other roads and communities along the way to the site. It also takes a lot of time to haul all of that material, jobs can be completed way quicker. On certain projects, such as FDR and foamed bitumen, the lanes can be reopened to traffic within hours. Minimizing congestion, especially in busy areas.
  • Pavement recycling also just happens to be the name of the company I work for! Pavement Recycling Systems…. and it’s what we do!

I would like to thank you for letting me share my story with you! Here are a few of my favourite photos, of my favourite machines! Stay tuned for more!

Stay safe out there everybody!

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