There are “drop yards” near large cities where various freight companies all find reasons to store equipment for short periods. The Company had some empty trailers and bobtail tractors and a few complete rigs in the yard near Denver all clustered into a corner together. More equipment from other companies surrounds them. I was dropping a full load for someone else to carry to the final destination, after which I would connect to an empty and haul it to Kansas.
I am apparently the only human being in the place. The automatic gate opened when I got out to key in the code I had been given. Our area was full and I had to drop my trailer in an “overflow” area. The paperwork is left with the load and I remembered to remove my “meat lock” from the back doors. This is a big heavy hasp with a hardened steel lock that would be a big problem for the next poor soul to hook that trailer if I had forgotten it. It pays to sit and think a while when making these changes. I don’t want to get down the road fifty miles before I realize I need to go back.
Creeping around alone in the dark like this is a bit eerie. The empty has to be checked out before I drag it 350 miles. The meat plant guard will have me start the refrigeration unit and look inside to make sure the trailer is clean enough. As I open the door, I remember a Night Gallery episode about three kids hanging around a creepy old man’s house. Eventually the old man startles them by coming out and tells them to go down the road to an abandoned lot, near a tree and dig down six feet to get a surprise. The kids start out eagerly digging, but one loses his nerve then another until the last determined boy is digging alone. The sun is setting when the stubborn kid finds a wooden door in the hole. As he clears away the last of the dirt, the door begins to open by itself…
…and the same creepy old man climbs up some stairs out of the door and says to the badly shaken lad, “Surprise!”.
Weird tales not withstanding, my trailer was empty and relatively clean.
McDonalds, Vernon, California (in the Los Angeles Metroplex) March 2, 2017
The Empty, the tractor and I find our way to Kansas. The route starts out as smooth sailing down Interstate 70, but ducks off on US287. Mostly good road but one lane each way with occasional passing lanes. Soon enough it is US 54 and 400 that pierce Kansas towns like chunks of meat on a shish-kabob. Usually I creep down Main Street with the “normal” traffics, but some of these towns route trucks down numbered industrial avenues, through some challenging corners.
The Meat Plant is at the Junction of two such highways and truly a “Hub” of frozen meat distribution. More than a few of my carnivore-supply journeys have originated in this same plant, which has a Loves truck stop conveniently across the street. The drill is this: I drop the empty I acquired in the lonely Denver yard and creep across to Loves as a “bobtail”. There, sleep is the order of the moment – like it or not. As the deadline approaches, Jill the navation computer starts blabbering about important new messages, all complaining that I have not sent the “Loaded and Rolling” message. We have these “Macros” – standard message forms – that we dispatch when receiving the load. I have signed up for the “wake-up list” but the Meat Plant shippers have not called. There is a “is-it-ready” website that does not recognize my PO (or PU) number. As a last resort, I have a contact phone number and a voice named “Scot” tells me that mine is a “Babysit Miller Load”* that is now ready, with the paperwork stuck to the last pallet in trailer number 15380.
*I haven got a clue, either
At 5 AM: Once I mention Scot at the gate, I am ushered in to go trailer-hunting, down rows of twenty trailers each – about twelve of those. While many Company trailers are found (including the now-full Empty I dropped) 15380 is hiding somewhere. In desperation, I drive over to the Empty Drop Zone – and there he sits (trailers are male and tractors, female – by nature of their connecting equipment).
As usual, the Captain makes an estimate of where the trailer tandem-axle should sit and weighs the result before departing. The yard scale says the drive tandems are heavy, but nobody believes those and a CAT (Certified Automatic Truck) scale ticket – over at the Loves – is required anyway. Unexpected difficulty keeps me circling back to the scale. The fourth scaling sees a one-ton shift from the drive axle to the steers. This simply cannot happen, since I did not move the fifth wheel. On a hunch, I weigh the truck again – having changed nothing. Re-weighs are only two bucks and I have a sneaking suspicion…
Sure enough, the truck is now balanced and legal. The ton of mystery weight has again moved to the drive tandem. This means one of two things. Either the CAT scale is giving different results for the unaltered combination (BLASPHEMY!) or the fifth wheel is moving by itself. As you may remember in Marooned at Brady’s Leap, this has happened to me before. But still, I can’t catch the fifth wheel out-of-place and there is no jarring thud to make me think it is moving.
The continuing mystery must wait. By now I have whittled away two hours of duty time weighing the truck and gotten nowhere. Also, most of an hour of drive time inadvertently escaped my grasp while we were trailer hunting. I have the ticket that says the load is legal. Departure is very much to be desired.
Jill is always confused when leaving this place and there is no “usual” direction. She always tells me “You are traveling in the wrong direction” and I shut her up by pressing her re-route button. The result is a detour down Kansas 22, a narrow, shoulder-less road through a field of windmills. The turn to 22 comes suddenly and Jill forgets to tell me about it – resulting in a “hard-braking incident” – which Jill recorded and sent off to Dallas and for which I will have to sit across a desk and explain, the next time I find myself in Purgatory.
It is a windy trip to Albuquerque and I arrive exhausted. The next day is an exercise in clock management. The goal is set at a Pilot in Kingman, Arizona. My eight-day clock has only eight hours and seventeen minutes left and part of that will be needed for the post-trip inspection. Now, I may inspect all I want during my rest break, but I must log 30 minutes of duty time for same. I must average 60 miles per hour to make Kingman. There are hills to be climbed that slow the hurtling mass of meat and steel to 45 mph (the meat outweighs the truck by a few thousand pounds). I can only compensate by “rolling the hill” on the downside, actually approaching the legal speed limit – and grossly violating the Company limit. More “evidence” that Jill can send – via satellite – to the stern-faced Judges at Purgatory. And by the way, an Arizona DOT scale confirmed that last CAT scale ticket before I was waved back to the Interstate.
The San Francisco Peaks in Arizona – Flagstaff is up there in the pass
For the record, the eight day clock at Kingman read 00 00 when all was said and done. A trip around the block would have been a Federal Offence.
The run in to the Final took me through the Los Angeles Metroplex at morning rush hour. My readers are imaginative people, capable of visualizing massive urban traffic jams. So, y’all can take that and add forty tons of truck that barely fits the lane and an eight speed manual transmission – with no synchronizers.
But, I got there with 30 minutes to spare and unloaded without incident. After that, it got interesting. The eight day clock had recovered 8 hours and change at Kingman. I had squandered all but one hour and 10 minutes to get to the Receiver. Now I am stuck in the LA metroplex, 46 miles from the nearest truck stop. Remember, I need 30 minutes of post-trip inspection out of that 70 minutes – and, I need a time machine to get to the truck stop. I can fit the Flux Capacitor hardware into the cab, but I can’t manage the 88 miles per hour to initiate the time travel sequence.
I had asked the gate guard about where to go hide a 40 ton truck and he mentioned a truck stop down the road, but said it was “private”. He suggested a McDonalds parking lot. I repeated the request at the receiving window and got pretty much the same advice. A call to Purgatory told me the address of the truck stop which I told Jill about and she routed me around in a circuitous path that was burning up my last 40 minutes. Finally, a passing pick-up driver, who must have seen my look of desperation yelled over directions. The truck stop turned out to be a monthly contract parking terminal, where I was told by a local driver “you can’t park here”. He suggested McDonalds.
I believe it was advice from Sally Rogers (Rose Marie) in the Dick Van Dyke Show (circa 1965):
“When three people say you’re sick – LIE DOWN!”
“That Scottish place where I breakfasted” – Malcolm McDowell as H.G. Wells in “Time After Time” 1979
Over The Road,