Travel America Truck Stop Interstate 20 exit 472, Landcaster (Dallas), Texas
The “one pallet” load began what was to be a series of surreal events. Jill, the Navigation Computer (She is like HAL9000’s idiot sister) told me “arrived at destination” on the road near an unlabeled driveway behind a big warehouse complex. There are trailers parked along it, so we now it has something to do with trucks, at least. There are signs, but none of them say “Stop and Shop” or “Oneida” as I see on the bills. Now I find about 40 cargo doors, some with trailers affixed, others vacant and a few with complete trucks and drivers. A few vacant doors are indeed labeled “Oneida”. None of the shipping doors are so labeled. So, where will I park? Why wherever it is convenient. Any golf cart driving security guard who shows up to say I am not allowed to park will immediately be required to tell me where I can park.
In situations like this, a journey by foot is required. Pick a receiving door, walk in and show them your papers. They have seen the confusion before (because no one can be bothered to put up a sign) and they will direct you to the proper door. This happens a lot. Far down on the end, back past my truck which is facing door 19, is the proper receiving office. I see a chart with door assignments by receiver and 18.19 and 20 are assigned to “Stop and Shop” . So, I got it right. There are three people behind the glass and one of them takes my phone number to call me with a door assignment. Then, it is “wait in the truck” as usual. An hour goes by. I was an hour early, as usual, so this is not unexpected. Another hour passes. Not out-of-the-ordinary, but there are no other trucks being unloaded – that is odd. Another 45 minutes pass and I walk in to the receiving office to see if maybe they have forgotten me and the single pallet. By now, I could have carried in the cargo a few packages at a time. The receiving office is empty. There is a contact number in the load information that I copy from Jill’s screen. I tell them the situation and there is a puzzled silence. Five minutes later, a call comes to back into door #19. I reckon I should have called earlier.
Finally unloaded there is a decision to be made. It is 1800 (six o’clock PM) local. The truck stop I left fills up by five, being in the heart of Denver. So, I make tracks for a Pilot further from downtown. This one is packed like the proverbial bordello in New Orleans on a Saturday night. Every legit space and every “outlier” spot is filled and trucks double parked next to those. There is a Loves 30 miles away in Bennett, but it is usually packed because it is across the street from a supermarket. There is a single spot in the far back corner. I am facing it and the usual procedure would be to turn right and circle back to swing in from the left and out in front. By the time I finish that, another truck will have claimed the spot. Instead, there is a maneuver that looks weird and is ill-advised. I turn hard left, then reverse the steering wheel completely and back up slowly until the back of the sleeper is almost touching the trailer. The truck is “L” shaped. Now I drive the tractor in a half-circle and the trailer rotates around the rear axles – pivoting around like the second hand of a clock. At the end, I reverse the steering wheel again and straighten the truck, which is now completely reversed in direction. All that remains is to back into the corner space.
There is a tension released when the truck is parked, especially after a long trip or as in this case – after a long fruitless search for parking. The driver’s head goes numb and wobbly and has to be supported with both hands. If, during this time, the neighboring truck pulls out, the driver stabs the foot brake with a panic because it seems his own truck is moving backward – this despite the fact that he just set both the tractor and trailer brakes.
First order of business is to visit the supermarket. French bread sandwiches tonight!
The new assignment comes at the Loves. When drive time is regained, I start from Bennett for Dodge City Kansas. When loaded, I will drive to Dallas, drop the truck and take a bus to Houston. Just in time to have the whole family together for the first time since Thanksgiving.
The Kitchen Table in my Own House! March 22, 2017
The time at home is always short – this time doubly so. I was happy to see some of my friends and I regret that I could not see others. While I was applying for a replacement of the lost license card, I also accomplished the Hazardous Materials, Tanker and Doubles/Triples endorsements for my Commercial Driver’s License. These will help me to find a reasonably compensated position with a more respectable Company. There is a Sleeping Giant of an oil field out in West Texas. The trick is to find profit in this soon-to-be Unprecedented Energy Renaissance.
The new assignment was a Meat Load out of Dodge City, Kansas. It was bound for Florida, but I will take it only to the Yard at Purgatory (not the ski resort) where they want to do some mandatory maintenance. These loads are not and cannot be rigidly scheduled, because the meat is being butchered even as I make my way to Kansas. The empty trailer has to be turned in at the plant and then the driver “Bobtails” to a truck stop to await a loaded trailer. There is an absolute deadline, which in this case was 22:25 on the 17th. Clearly my request for Home Leave on March 13th for Spring Break will not happen.
The ready call comes early and the trip begins on early Friday morning. There might be time to drop the truck at Dallas (Purgatory) and still get to Houston before Young Son leaves for College, Saturday morning. That dream is soon shattered when they reserve me a bus ticket for Saturday afternoon. Young Son will be passing by Dallas, so a change of plans…
Benjamin finds me at Purgatory and we go shopping and have lunch. I drop him off at College and drive to Houston. I will drive back – ONLY when I am sure the truck has been repaired, find Benjamin again and reverse the process. Lesson learned: Depend on my own resources and do not ask the Company for help.
Marilu and I made a day trip to Galveston. We were thinking of taking a Harbor Tour Boat when I remembered the Boliver Ferry. From Galveston Island’s connection to the Bolivar Peninsula is State highway 87 and ferries make the twenty minute journey between the two. I was going to say they are free, but of course they are paid for with State taxes.
On weekends the line to board is hours long, but on this Wednesday early afternoon the wait was less than twenty minutes.
The Ferry Robert C. Lanier is named for a former Mayor of Houston.
This is an enjoyable and inexpensive way to make a brief water tour. We looked around on the Peninsula for a while. Bolivar is one place where you can still drive on the Beach. After that, we got back on the Ferry for the return trip. This time we drove straight on and the boat left half full. Some dolphins were spotted but they always seem to dive just when you get your camera ready.
Marilu aboard the Lanier. It is windy and refreshing. The towers visible behind her are not the City skyline, but rather a collection of idle Jackup oil rigs. To the left of that is the City of Galveston, which has very few tall buildings.
I am packing up now to make the return trip. I called to confirm that the truck is indeed ready. They claim the governor is set to 64 mph now. However, their credibility is zilch with me, so I’ll believe it when I see the number on my speedometer.
Hasta La Vista,