Clockery, the APU and Mennonites

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“Service Plaza” on Interstate 90 – mile marker 172,  Amsterdam, New York, April 10, 2017

I have just completed a “marathon” segment of a trip that required my full attention and participation. At this moment, I am killing time until the next segment, which is a more mundane 200 mile jaunt from here to Rhode Island which will start at 4 AM Tomorrow. 

Having been dismissed from the Kenworth shop with an allegedly repaired tractor, I hooked the empty that sat waiting for two and a half profitless days to drag it to a Pilot Travel Center nearby.  There, I could transmit the paperwork to be reimbursed for two days of motel expense and payment for the aborted trip that ended with being “hauled out” there in South Bend, Indiana.

An assignment soon came through for a load out of a meat plant in Ottowa*, Illinois, some 150 miles away.

*Back during  my training hitch (seven weeks confined to the upper bunk as the “second seat” driver of  a Freightliner Cascadia) it was observed by the Instructor that Civilization has only a finite number of place-names and we are doomed to encounter them over and over in our travels. This would make a fine subject for a lengthy post at some point in the future.  In any case, Ottowa is a good example of this phenomenon.

The “protocol” at a meat plant is generally this:  The driver shows up with an empty trailer and deposits same in a “drop lot” in the meat plant “yard”.  Then he makes a short “bobtail” trip to a parking area where a “Vigil” is performed while the meat load is butchered and loaded into an empty trailer plucked from that same drop lot. I got my own empty back just once, out of – I guess – a dozen such loads.

Sometimes the “pickup” trailer is ready when you get there.  Other times, a wait of 12 to 16 hours might be in store for the unfortunate driver – who, unfortunately gets paid exactly nothing for the Vigil.

In this case I waited long enough that my 14 hour “duty clock”  had run down to a bit more than two hours.  I still had almost eight drive hours, you understand, but only two hours to do it in.  It is a silly consequence of a Byzantine Federal Regulation, don’t you see.

Concentrate, now – it gets complicated 😉

The trip to the first of two receivers will require 15 hours of driving in about 29 hours.  So, if I leave now, I can expect to spend about an hour on hooking and weighing and adjusting the load.  It is not driving (i.e., I can do this “on break”, but my drive time is still being “burned”  by the duty clock’s sad demise).  That would leave me an hour to drive and find a parking place (near impossible in Illinois at 1 AM) after which ten hours of break (and a half  hour “inspection”) could be followed by eleven hours of intense  driving.  That done, another ten  and a half hours in one place would be mandatory.  So, if you are counting, we are now thirty three (33) hours into our 29 hour trip and we ain’t THERE, yet.

Let’s rethink that.  I have now been “on break” for five hours.  If I stay that way for five more, then I would have eleven to drive followed by ten and a half downtime.  Then I would be four hours out, having spent a total of twenty six and a half (26.5) hours to get there.  I would arrive over an hour late.  If I may quote Chico Marx again, “That’s a-no-good, too!”.

There is another option.  If I spend three more hours “on break” I can perform an “eight hour split”, where I regain the eight hours of drive time I have now, but on a new “duty cycle”.   So, eight hours of driving, followed by ten and a half down-time.  Now I am twenty and one half hours into the voyage with seven driving hours to get there and eight and one half hours to do so.

I’ll just quote John Lovett, now:  “Yeah…That’s the ticket!”

And that is what I did – every moment was accounted for and sleeping the entire ten hours of break would have been good, but I wound up walking around for hours trying to bring on sleep after having consumed an entire Green Stanley Thermos of coffee to put off that same sleep during the eight hour push to get to Ohio.  I arrived at the receiver near Syracuse, New York just over an hour early and flat-out exhausted – BUT NOT LATE!

It was with a great sense of accomplishment that I struggled to climb down out of the tractor to the ground and shuffle along like a hundred-year-old man until circulation was restored after seven hours in the seat. Unfortunately, there is no reward for clever “Clockery” and maniacal, mule-headed, grit-your-teeth determination.  Having arrived on time, I waited three and a half hours for the receiver’s portion of the load to be removed before taking off for Amsterdam*, New York.

The phrase “Hurry up and Wait” is a “Natural” for this Occupation.

And here, in Amsterdam I will wait a total of nineteen (19) hours before proceeding the three and a half hours to the next delivery.

Iroquois Service Plaza on Interstate 90 – mile marker 210 West Bound Dolgeville, NY

 April 11, 2017

I am making the return trip after Rhode Island and I have pulled off not far from where I stopped on the Eastbound side yesterday.  It is midnight now and during a stroll to the “facilities” I treasured the coolness (55°)  that has descended with the evening.  Climate control while “in port” has become a problem. Once I lived in tents in the triple canopy jungles of South America and did not worry about such things.  I was younger then.

The following discussion of the weather requires an explanation of the truck’s electrical and climate control systems.

First, the truck has a straightforward heating and air conditioning system about like the one in your car.  The heat is driven by what amounts to a small radiator that sucks waste heat out of the engine cooling system.  The air conditioning comes from a compressor that is belt-driven off the engine.  Both of these require the big diesel engine to be running and that is fine if the “ship” is “under way”.

The trouble comes when the truck is parked.  When you park your car at your house, it is not terribly important that the interior is particularly hot or cold, because you do not live in your car.  Now, however, I have become attached to this vehicle and save for a few brief spans of time at shippers and receivers –  and the occasional expeditions on public transit.  The auxiliary power unit (APU) that allegedly heats and cools the stationary vehicle – and charges its batteries – seems to be an ephemeral mechanism that rarely functions as advertised.  One may fire up the main engine and heat and cool the cabin dramatically.  There are, however, local ordinances that outlaw “idling” (for the sake of a few gallons of diesel fuel) and those statutes are enforced by local officials that have no sympathy for thermal discomfort.

Most of the journey across Indiana found me routed down US Highway 20 through small towns – paralleling the Turnpike that bypasses those low speed zones.  There is a lot of construction on I-80 and that may explain the detour.  I am not one to avoid scenic routing, but it came at a time when speed was a priority.  My father passed on to me a sense of promptness that demands a “Johnny-on-the-Spot” appearance at least 15 minutes before the appointment.  Speeding is a false economy of time, as intervals spent watching the Officer write up the ticket are counter productive in the struggle to be on time.

Around La Grange County along US20 there was an overriding phenomenon that demanded slow and careful passage.  It was Sunday morning in a Mennonite community.  I passed (carefully) at least 10 horse-drawn buggies and a similar number of pedestrian families (Dad on the Point, children “in the rocking chair” and Mom bringing up the rear).  All were in their finest “Sunday-go-to-meeting” clothes.  The bearded men were images of Johnny Cash, but with broad brimmed black hats.  Sons were beardless miniatures of same.  The girls, also in black, wore bonnets, like their Moms and little white aprons.

In all cases, I slowed to a relative crawl, lit the 4-way flashers and gave wide berth to each.  I was able to photograph one carriage.

MennoniteBuggyThe bug splattered condition of the windshield gave the image a nice “antique feel” don’t you agree?  The “Slow-Moving-Vehicle” triangle is the Mennonites’ concession to engine driven modernity.  I did not photograph the pedestrian families, out of respect for privacy.  I was sort of afraid they would see me taking their picture and feel like Museum Exhibits.

I made a train journey from Houston to Los Angeles, about 35 years ago and was surprised to meet some Mennonites aboard.  It seems that trains are acceptable forms of travel, having existed before the “cut-off date”.  A short bit of research finds that the Amish will travel by bus, as well.   They also enjoy travel by boat or ship, even for recreation .  Air travel is universally prohibited, except for emergencies.  Some Amish will accept rides in automobiles, but will not drive.

I was in Santa Cruz, Bolivia once, during my Seismic days.  On the way to the local office, I saw big, fair-haired men in coveralls and wide-brimmed straw hats followed by women in bonnets. Everybody else in Bolivia is barely five feet tall and the headgear is generally knitted woolen caps. I asked the cabbie who these people were.  “Menonites”( men-oh-neat-tess), he explained.  I did one of those Homer Simpson face-palms.  Yup, there are Amish in South America.

On the subject of height:  I was walking to the town square in Santa Cruz one evening  and was caught up in a crowd.  As I approached the square, I saw a Military Band setting up on the pavilion at its center.  About that time, a local girl tapped me on the shoulder and asked what the “hubbub” was about.  I described what I saw and wondered why she asked me – an obvious stranger.  Another Homer-Simpson-Moment this was.  I was about a foot taller than anybody else in the crowd and the only person who could actually see what was going on.

Over The Road,

Steve

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