Ohio Turnpike (I-80) exit 197, Brady’s Leap Service Plaza, February 21, 2017
“Captain Samuel Brady’s 22-foot leap across the Cuyahoga River to escape pursuing Indians climaxed the frontier career of a scout who has been described as the Daniel Boone of the northeast Ohio valley. The famous broad jump occurred in what is now Kent, Ohio, about 12 miles southwest of the Brady’s Leap Service Plaza.”
A Trinity of clocks rules the trucker’s schedule. Not to belabor the subject, I will just say that this trip was finally terminated abruptly when time ran out. As of yesterday morning, I had six minutes of drive time and not enough “returning” time at midnight (7 hours and 14 minutes) to make the delivery in Queens (a borough* of New York City). You may remember the last time I visited New York City as related in “Brooklyn”. In it I came to the conclusion that New York City is a place where we can Fling Down the Safety Manual and Dance Upon It. Anywhere else, what I was forced to do to make the delivery would be a “Firing Offence” and would have probably accumulated for me some four digits worth of fines.
*”The five boroughs of New York City are Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island. Each borough is also a county in state government: Manhattan is New York County, Brooklyn is Kings County, Staten Island is Richmond County, and the other two have the same names (Queens is Queens County and The Bronx is Bronx County).”
“Alongside” at Brady’s Leap
What you do when stranded by the clock is call for a load swap. Turns out they already had some poor schlemiel sitting at Brady’s with an empty trailer, waiting for a load. So, he dropped his trailer over in the backlot and I dropped mine up front and we both drove to the other and connected. He needs my paperwork and the lot is near empty now, so I drove over and parked beside him.
Now, I am the poor schlemiel with an empty trailer hanging around at Brady’s Leap and he is off to New York. I still get paid for those 1018 open-road miles I drove from St. Joseph, Missouri and he gets the 440 miles to Queens.
I had been running from roughly midnight to noon and that is why I am typing away at 2 AM, you see. In addition to the auto and truck fuel islands at Brady’s, there are restrooms, a food court, a convenience store and trucker lounge area with available showers. If you have to spend 34 hours Marooned, this is not a bad place to be. Just for the record, I did not plan to avoid Queens and wind up relaxing here. But, I did see it coming and did nothing to avoid the situation. And, in fact I squeezed out another 120 miles along the Ohio Turnpike and managed to arrive here (where I have been before) with six minutes of drive time left. See how that works?
Service Plaza Interior – Convenience Store, Vending, Restrooms, Trucker’s Lounge with showers.
Service Plaza Interior – Food Court
Loves Truck Stop, US 287, Midlothian, Texas
The call came to pick up a load in Columbus, Ohio. The dispatching agent actually wanted me to cut short my 34 hour break at 29 hours and offered me $75 dollars for a day and five hours of my life. Obviously he did not want this very much. That action would mean that I would, at some point have to start a 34 hour break again, from scratch. The reader may do the math.
I turned it down, flat – without even a counter-offer since three times that pittance would be my minimum and I know well that they won’t do that. So, I waited five more hours and left with a full 70 hours of drive time for the next 8 days, instead of seven hours and change.
This load is probably worth a dollar sign with one and six more digits after that. It is a “dry load” of “apparel and fragrances” from a well-known “Secret” supplier. I received extensive instructions that one driver should always be with the truck and to never to park in an unsecured place or in the last row at a truck stop. It was another “impossible” trip, planned for a team of drivers and handed to me because I was the only vehicle available.
So, I take the load from the Capital of Ohio and flee South to Tennessee, where another driver and rig have been stage at a truck stop near Knoxville. He has burned three hours waiting for me. I would have been there a bit sooner if the mechanics in Purgatory had actually set my governed speed to 64 mph like they said they would.
From Knoxville, I am again late before I start. The load has a delivery appointment in Fort Worth in 13 hours, at a moment when I was not street legal for another ten hours. They still pay me for miles driven. So sleep, then weigh the truck, then go like the wind, Bullseye!
The scale ticket my counterpart gave me shows the front axle heavy. He says he fixed it, but that does not mean I am in the clear. Front axle adjustments are done by moving the fifth wheel. That is the connecting mechanism that keeps the trailer close behind. I will try to get a picture of that device.
The “fifth wheel”. The tractor frame is below and the trailer body above. The driver’s cab is to the left. The 5th wheel has been moved to the back end of it’s range – taking the maximum weight off the front axle.
There is a switch in the cab that releases the fifth wheel on a sliding rail. The driver sets the trailer brakes and moves the tractor until the fifth wheel is in the desired position. Simple, right?
The fifth wheel is jammed-tight stuck and refuses to move, despite an hour of repeated attempts. As a last resort, the driver will put the tractor in lowest low gear and race the engine and pop the clutch. The jammed mechanism is freed up all at once and the tractor leaps forward until the fifth wheel reaches its rear-most extreme. Then everything stops – suddenly. Did I mention that it is a good idea to wear a seat belt for such activities? I must have forgotten that detail. I will remember in the future. See diagram below for the consequences of my lapse of memory.
Steve, just after the fifth wheel moved.
Fortune smiled on me – albeit weakly – when I clobbered the overhead instead of the windshield. There is a huge lump on my head and my neck aches severely now – two days later. Don’t try this at home.
Rest Area, Hardeman County, US 287, Near Quanah, Texas, February 25, 2017
Returning to Texas means I can request a replacement license card. There is a Department of Public Safety Mega-center near the Receiver and it is possible to get in line (queue) via telephone. The computer called to tell me to come to the desk about when I arrived at the Distribution Center. No solution but to call again later. When I did, a polite recording tells me that the office is closed. I drove by another DPS office only to find that it was not equipped to park big trucks. The license will have to wait. I got away with a tiny picture of a bad photocopy of the card, on an iPhone 5 for this long and it will have to do for another few weeks.
After another break at a Loves, where I don’t have shower credits, a load of iced tea for Denver was waiting nearby. They ask you to drop the trailer at the door and move the tractor two feet forward. This is again for safety, so the driver cannot pull out while workers are in the trailer. That is in addition to the Great Claw that attaches the trailer solidly to the building. For no adequately explained reason, I had trouble reconnecting when I was asked to take another door and again when I departed that door.
It is standard procedure to weigh the truck after a new load and I did so, about 75 miles down the road. The trailer tandem was too heavy by 500 pounds (34500 lbs) and the front axle was the same at 12500 pounds. That last part is impossible, since the fifth wheel is all the way forward. Unexplained.
After three attempts at adjusting the trailer axles, three quarters of a ton moved mysteriously from the front axle to the drive tandem. Unexplained. I finally wound up with the trailer adjusted exactly as I brought it in but now completely balanced and legal. Impossible.
I drove for three more hours before it dawned on me that the fifth wheel is moving randomly by itself. It must be that the locking mechanism is broken. If you thought that I have now explained everything, hold on. I have left a fifth wheel unlocked before – by accident. It announced itself in a dramatic slamming forward and backward of the trailer as we traveled. This shook the tractor violently and scared the hell out of the Instructor and his clueless student.
None of that is happening, now. Weight is moving around all quiet-like. The mystery continues – I cannot catch the fifth wheel out of place and I hate that because I feel some new unexpected event has to happen – to explain it all.
Pilot, Interstate 70 exit 359, Limon, Colorado, February 26, 2017
Delivery is tomorrow in Denver (about 80 miles away) at 1400 MST. After that, I haven’t got a clue, as usual.
Update: I will now drop this trailer at a yard at 0430 and deadhead to Kansas for a meat load to Los Angeles. No time for further literary pursuits tonight.
Over The Road,