Joliet – Just Visiting

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Pilot Truck Stop # 316, I-70 exit 276A, Denver, Colorado

So much has happened and so quickly that I can’t make sense of it until I type it out.  The trip from Jersey to Joliet all took place at exactly the wrong part of the days.  I mean to say that I was waking  in the afternoon and traveling until after midnight when I would rather do just the opposite.

I have used that trick of passing all the late night arrivals who have their rigs backed up out the rest area entrance, there to find the blank spots left by the early departures.  I ease the truck into the gap and, after a trip to the men’s room, I collapse in the bunk exhausted only to wake up in the afternoon in an near-empty lot of pull-through diagonals.

As I drove down the final at Joliet, I passed a Sam’s Club that beckoned me near, only to repel me again with a big sign that says “NO TRUCKS”.  After discharging my 35 ton cargo of Tapioca Pudding (no – really!), I asked the shipping clerk about that and she assured me that if I was shopping, I could park there.  It was the “overnighters” that the angry sign was aimed at.

I swung the rig in behind the Sam’s, past another sign that threatened to tow me and then around front where I found acres of empty asphalt.

Sams_AcresOfParking.jpgAbove:  I took this picture for the off-chance that they would actually tow my truck.  Imagine my hearing before the Judge:  “Your honor, I would like to enter this photograph into evidence as exhibit A”.  There were 160 contiguous empty spaces, of which I took eight.  I wrote with dry-erase marker on the driver’s window: “Shopping Only – I will depart by 13:30.”…and my phone number.

EightSpacesParking.jpgAbove:  The proper way to occupy eight parking spaces.  One takes enough of the last one to discourage parked smart cars and turns the cab outward at the end to ensure exit right-of-way.

From Sam’s I was assigned a load in Tinsley Park, Illinois.  Still in the Chicago area and close to where I was plotting a 34 hour break stunt to see downtown Chicago.  One of those enforced week-ends was looming and I had researched a truck stop near a transit line.  I have been to Chicago back in the mid-nineteen seventies and saw the Museum of Science and Industry as well as the observation deck at the John Hancock Building – then, the tallest building in the world.  I had it in mind to revisit both.

Alas,  I was assigned another load and went to pick it up.  It was, Ironically, only 15 miles from the chosen truck stop.  I was expected to witness the loading on this one.  Every shipper is different.  Some won’t load without a driver on the dock and others ban the driver from even leaving his truck, except to present and fetch paperwork.  There was a problem.  The pallets were bound to single cartons that had to be stacked two-high to make the load.  The dimensions of the trailer had been taken into account, yes.  But someone forgot that refrigerated  trailers are thickly insulated.

cantstackemhighAbove:  The lumper’s forklift has the top of the carton pressing against the roof of the trailer.  An inch of additional clearance would be needed.  Half the cargo would need be left on the dock – not practical.  Or, the cartons could be re-stacked two to a pallet – possible, but time consuming.  Or, they could find a non-refrigerated trailer.  The “reefer” unit was to be turned off anyway. They chose that last option and sent me packing (pun intended).

So, the journey to Chicago’s Center was again on the docket.  At loose ends, I went to the truck stop in question.  It was about five PM and all parking (and then some) was taken.  That put me out on the street, again destination-less – and in a five o’clock traffic jam, in Chicago.  I found the nearest interstate and crept eagerly away from Chicago.

It is possible to read satellite messages while stopped in traffic and I received a load assignment that was cancelled almost immediately.  Then another assignment came and by an odd happenstance, it was further down the interstate I was inching along,  in Romeoville (I did not make that up).  I was unfortunately, already late for the appointment.

This was on October 31st and the shipping clerk was decked out in the most stunning “Drag Queen” outfit that I was about to compliment him on a spectacular Halloween costume.  A fellow named RuPaul came to mind.  But, you see, I have never been here before. What if he dresses like that every day?  I think he called me “Honey” once or twice, but I was tired and might have imagined that.  Regardless of sartorial choices he was helpful and respectful of this old man and I thanked him.

Here is the part where those “Clocks” raise their ugly heads again.  I had plenty (like 8 hours) of 11 Hour Clock but I was running out of 14 hour Clock.  Let me say that a different way:  I could drive for eight hours, but I had three hours to do it in.  Beside the ending a sentence with a preposition, that is still an awkward statement.

Let’s just explain the consequences:  By  the time the trailer was full (and they apparently got creative with the loading – it looked like McGee’s closet when opened later) I had about 50 minutes of possible driving or on-duty activity.  There is a post trip inspection that takes about ½ an hour, so 20 minutes to drive.  There is not any place I can get to and be welcome with a 40 ton vehicle in that time.  Besides that, I had about 2 and one half hours of break time that could start my required ten hours off.  If I drove somewhere, I would lose that and start over.

The answer is to stay in the shipper’s yard and leave in the morning.  I made a trip plan from the Chicago area to Denver and it put me at the receiver at 1300 (one PM) Central Daylight Time (CDT).  That was a “bare bones” plan with no “fat” in the schedule.  It included a ten hour break (which is really 10 and a half).  Where you put that break in the trip does not matter.  It has to be there by law and moving it around will not gain time at the end.

While I was driving the Company set the appointment at 10 AM CDT.  I informed the Company that this was simply, legally impossibly – but to no avail.  They told me to put in a “Running Late” message and request a re-power (load swap with another driver for just such events).  I did, but I pointed out in messages that fly all over the Company that I was not late and the appointment was early, having been made without so much as a glance at my trip plan.

When I arrived, at 1230 CDT (30 minutes early) there had been no re-power and no rescheduling.  The receiving clerk told me I was late and the receiving hours were over.  She seemed like a nice person, so I told her the whole story.  I added that I had installed the time circuitry and the flux capacitor in my truck but could not get it up to 88 miles per hour to initiate the time-travel event.  She was very understanding and somehow found the resources to get my truck unloaded, nonetheless.

You may remember my purchase of a pretend-tool to cut Coca Cola seals with,  Please see photo below.  Well the seal on this load  had a stainless steel cable that was twice the diameter of the CC seal and I could not chew it off with the PT, even with the assistance of my taillight installing hammer.  The yard tractor man finally took pity on me and brought a bolt cutter which was so old and dull that he had to struggle to make progress against the seal.  Another driver had lined up behind him with an even bigger bolt cutter, but the seal surrendered before that one got its chance.

tinsnipschinaAbove: Imagine a cable twice the diameter!

I am now in the local Pilot truck stop only 1.7 miles from the receiver and I will be here for the 34 hours needed to renew my eight day Clock – now down to minutes.  By a coincidence, there is a bus stop across the street that will take me to a train station which will, in turn, take me to the Colorado State Capitol and the Denver Museum of Science and Nature.  All for a nine dollar day pass.  I’ll take pictures.



Above:  This eerie cloud formation faced me as the sun rose behind the truck in Nebraska.

5 thoughts on “Joliet – Just Visiting

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