The Definition of Insanity

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Rest Area I-15 exit 25, Malad City, ID  February 4, 2017

  A late start was inevitable after the tire was repaired.  Late starts make for late arrivals.   There was hope of a shower at the fuel stop in McCammon.  Showing up after midnight assures that no parking would be available.  There is a story about a driver who took a shower while his rig was at the fuel aisle.  He is not admired. Down the road is a rest stop with lots of snow, slowly melting.  The good news is that the APU is running now.  It is said that a defining characteristic of insanity is the act of repeating behavior with expectation of different results.  I tried to start the APU again and again over the last few days and always it cranked without starting until the low voltage alarm sounded.

  Last night, Insanity was successful.  The APU is functioning well, now.  The asylum has no phone service, so this lunatic will make an 8 hour split to a nearby pilot where a two hour break will be required to complete the days run.  Both shower and phone service can be expected this late in the morning.

  The best-laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft agley.  Returning from morning ablutions I did a walk-around of the truck and discovered a flat drive tire.  I will be staying put for a while.  Was I just saying something about the same behavior and different results?  Well, this one is on  the front drive axle of the tractor – so that is indeed different.

feb3_blowingsnowtruck  The day’s drive to get here was interesting.  There was blowing snow in places.

Feb3_GoodZone.jpg

Other places were in the “breath-taking scenery” category.

id_redmountainsMore “breath-taking scenery” .

feb3_snowblindmountains   I experienced “whiteout*” at one point.  This photo captures the gist of what I mean to say.  Fortunately, polarized sunglasses were just the ticket.  This was an extreme case, but the sunglasses were definitely required anywhere there was direct sun on snow.  

*I looked up “snow blindness” and while it did not happen this time, I’ve done that before, as it turns out.  It is essentially a UV “sunburn” of the eyes.  When I was a welder and worked inside a tank, the multiple reflections eventually bounced UV in the open back of the welding hood, off the backside of the dark glass and into my eyes.  You wake up in the night with what feels like sand in your eyes.  They make special hoods for that with leather shields around the sides of your face…I found out later.

 

feb3_boiserainbow  Things got better, as appropriately indicated by this Boise area rainbow.

feb3_maladidrest2The rest stop at Malad is picturesque after you have spent some time here.

Feb3_MaladID_Rest.jpg

The rest stop at Malad –  a picturesque recycling can, its snowbank and the hills beyond.

Rest Area I -76, exit 324, Phoenixville, Pensylvania February 8, 2017

   After Malad and the second flat tire in as many days, the incidents that occurred were all appreciated only as a spectator.

In Utah, there was a truck slowing and exiting.  As I began to pass, the driver suddenly remembered that he was taking the wrong exit and cut back toward the right lane (where Yours Truly was ambling along at the Governed 62 MPH).  To say I swerved into the left lane is gross over-simplification.  What I did is better called, “Easing Over – with Urgency”.

A while later, these observations unfolded in rapid succession:

There was an unfortunate and very large dead cow seen on the roadside.  The bovine’s demise  must have been quite recent.  Then we see an unhappy-looking pedestrian reversing back up the road, approaching the cow with camera in hand.  His fingertip-less gloves are a tip-off (No pun intended, it just worked out that way) – he is a truck driver.  A bit farther on is his truck, on the shoulder with 4-way flashers on.  I did not manage to see the front of said truck.  So, what’s going on?

Drivers do not leave their trucks in such a perilous situation (Known as a “sitting duck” position) just because they saw a dead cow and they wanted a picture.  The man was grim-faced because his truck had hit the cow.  Now he has to report this to local authorities and wait for them to show up.  Forms must be filled out and reports made – both locally and for “headquarters”.  And pictures are needed.  After that, a tow truck may be in order – or at least an extended garage stay.  This poor miscreant is through earning money for a week or so.  He has every reason to look unhappy.

It could have been worse.  He could have swerved to avoid the cow.  That may be what happened at the next “incident”.  I managed to grab a photo of this one, in Wyoming.

wy_avoidthisNine of 18 wheels.  I will endeavor to avoid this sort of incident. 

I can’t tell much about this truck, except to confirm that it is a refrigerated trailer.  How, pray tell, do I know this?  That fuel tank near the front of the trailer.  Swerving to avoid domestic livestock can have this result.  I have no way of knowing the condition of this driver.  But, I am sure my grim-faced colleague back at the cow would prefer his unfortunate fate to this catastrophic one.

Before we leave that photo of the truck’s belly, you will notice that the landscape of Eastern Wyoming is quite flat and the roadbed forms an artificial gentle hillside.  Three times in about as many hours, I noticed hawks hovering at the roadside, intensely staring down at the prairie, looking for scampering rodents to have for breakfast (it was early morning).  They use the updraft caused when the wind encounters the roadbed to station-keep with only the slightest adjustments requiring any wing motion.  I was not quick enough with the camera to capture this phenomenon.  An iPhone is too clumsy as a camera and I have my eye out for something more agile for such photos.

I had to interrupt my writing to move the truck.  This is the Northeast and The Parking Problem is still in full swing.  The “Service Plaza” on the Pennsylvania Turnpike where I am now has eight diagonal spaces for truck parking.  Last night when I arrived there were perhaps twenty-five or thirty full-sized tractor-trailer rigs parked here.  I have decided to call these “Outliers”.  That is a Scientist’s term for a data point that does not fit the trend.  I managed to find a parallel-parking space along the front drive where “NO Parking” signs appeared about once per truck – for about twelve trucks.  I am a day early and now short on drive time.  I can’t go anywhere until I leave for my appointment tomorrow at 6:30 AM. The late arrivals had blocked access to the diagonal spaces until now.  A walking tour found two spots available, so I quickly maneuvered the truck into one of them.  This is “creeping” and does not start the merciless 14 hour clock.  I don’t think I would be ticketed since the “authorities” know this is a major problem.  However, I feel more at ease in one of the tiny few “legal” parking spots.  I am no longer an “Outlier”.

Speaking of Wyoming,  I noticed a Kenworth Dealer billboard over on the West side of the state and I exited to do some shopping.  At Purgatory the mechanic had sequestered my truck for the better part of five days.  When finally I was cleared to leave and assigned a load, I was making the pre-trip inspection and found that the oil cap was missing.  This was after midnight and getting a replacement could be time-consuming, to say the least.  The last thing I wanted was another day in the shop and I had a schedule to keep.  So, out came the duct tape and we were rolling.  Since then I have had my eye out for a Kenworth Dealer.

This dealers shop was about a half mile from the highway and clearly visible (No trees, you see).  His parking area was tiny, so I requisitioned his neighbor’s lot and trudged through the knee-deep snow in-between. I found the door locked and a gentleman outside informed me that the place was closed.  It had been worth a shot to find an oilcap and just out of politeness, I told him what I was up to.  We struck up a conversation about trucking, which he had done for years and he assumed by my age that I had, too.  I let on that I was actually a newby at this and talked about my previous life in Seismic.  It turns out he had done some oilfield work in Louisiana.  It also turned out that he had a key to the shop and had decided to open it up and sell me an oil cap.

Some may doubt me, but Texas was once known as the “Friendship State”.  When I was young Texans had a reputation of being cordial and polite to strangers.  That reputation has faded over the years, but I still see examples from time to time.  A colleague in Venezuela who was Australian was telling me of his trip to Texas and how his car broke down on an Interstate one hot summer day.  His driving instinct was to pull to the left, which put him in the median of the highway instead of the shoulder.  A Highway Patrol car soon pulled up behind him.  This is the state police from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).  They have roots in the Texas Rangers and some still wear cowboy hats, as these did.

“I hope,” said I, “that they did not give you a hard time for pulling to the median.”

“Quite the reverse, Steven!  They were very friendly and helpful.  They stopped to use their lights to keep us from being run down and called us a tow truck. They even gave us some bottles of cold water.  I appreciated that because it was hot – but nothing like the Northern Territories, of course.”

We frequently discussed the relative merits of Australia and Texas, so he had to throw in that last bit just to say that Texas was “not so hot”. 😉

The old Texas custom comes as a habit to me now, even though I was quite shy and retiring as a youngster.  Just taking the time out of a day to have a polite conversation is a serene part of life.  They call it “stopping to smell the roses.”   And – once in a while – it pays dividends.

For new readers: The italic font indicates “real-time” remarks – from where and when I am at the writing.

Normal font denotes passages about yesterday, a week ago or even back in the Cretaceous Era when Dinosaurs ruled the Earth and Steve was a young man.

I was unable to contact the Receiver and word has come from Purgatory that there is no on-site parking there and they can’t fit me in early.  I will remain here another eighteen hours or so before taking the load in to the Final.

  Don’t be surprised to see more commentary.

Over The Road,

Steve

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