Author: Going. Walkabout
August 10, 2016 – (“Republished” from the WordPress site on 11/01/2019)
The sentence in Purgatory was complete and I had a load assignment.
My load was sitting on the Yard waiting for someone to haul it to Ohio. It was due to be there yesterday at 5:00 AM. It came it from Laredo, having crossed the border from Mexico to the Yard, then apparently sat there until they assigned it to me. I don’t pretend to understand why things happen that way, they just do.
The cargo weighs 31080 pounds and is made up of 3215 pieces on 47 pallets. It is described as “Freight – All Kinds” and must be maintained at 65° Fahrenheit. The only clue as to what it is will be the destination – Nabisco. It is a sealed load that I will probably never see. I did not bother to scale or balance the load, since it made it this far.
The first I do is make a trip plan, so I did that in about an hour. The fuel stops are picked for me, so mostly I pick my 30 minute break stops (to qualify for the last three hours of driving time) and where I settle for the night for the ten hour break that gets me another eleven for the next day. By this time I had been awake and busy with the new truck, safety and training for fourteen hours, so the first thing on the trip plan is to go to sleep.
You may find it odd, but I have found that the best time to start a trip is a half hour after midnight. The road out of town is clear and traffic is at a minimum. The bars are still open so the patrons are not yet driving. Things are quiet and calm and that is appropriate for driving an unfamiliar truck on the first leg of a journey of 166 miles. Usually there is a “deadhead” mileage to add to that, but for this case, it is one mile. And I didn’t use that much. As I eased to the stop sign at the gate, the guard came out and waved me to the inbound side because the outbound gate was under repair. Off to a flying start!
The midnight advantage was working since backing out of the gate would be impossible in the exodus of Purgatory-fleeing drivers all day Monday. I find the selection of music available on the radio to be unimpressive. I won’t be the first old man to say this: Music today is rather disappointing. The Instructor listened to what “country” music has become. Willie Nelson it ain’t.
Fortunately, I had found my old CD’s in a closet and brought along a shoebox full. Call me picky but only maybe six of those are worth hearing more than once. One is the Dire Straits album “Brothers in Arms”. It includes “So Far Away” which, back in my Field Work Days (42 days in the jungle/desert/mountains, then 14 in Caracas with Marilu) was “our song”. It is appropriate these days as well. I am learning it by heart for an eventual Karaoke recording as an anniversary present. So, don’t tell her, OK?
I will resort to tactics invented by people who are paid by the word and quote the full lyrics:
- Here I am again in this mean old town
- And you’re so far away from me.
- And where are you when the Sun go down?
- You’re so far away from me
- So far away from me
- So far I just can’t see
- So far away from me
- You’re so far away from me.
- I’m tired of bein’ in love and bein’ all alone.
- When you’re so far away from me.
- I’m tired of making out on the telephone
- And you’re so far away from me.
- So far away from me
- So far I just can’t see
- So far away from me
- You’re so far away from me.
- And I get so tired when I have to explain
- When you’re so far away from me
- See, you’ve been in the sun and I’ve been in the rain
- And you’re so far away from me.
- So far away from me
- So far I just can’t see
- So far away from me
- You’re so far away from me.
I promised more photos but the view from the truck is what?
Yep, another truck stop. And, it’s raining so I will do an album of various truck types – later maybe.
There is a unique feature of the Kenworth passenger seat in combination with the non-piece-of-plywood desk. Photographing it is difficult, given the close quarters in here, but I’ll try:
You see that the passenger chair rotates to face the desk. And, yes, it is probably the most comfortable chair you will ever sit in. I spend ten plus hours a day in its twin and I’ll testify that they went all out on designing these chairs.
Back in Ohio
For Saturday October 19 (10 AM to 8 PM) and Sunday, October 20 (11 AM to 3 PM) 2019: One, Two, Three, Etc. – a Houston arts and craft company that offers Peruvian jewelry, ornaments and accessories will be at the Brenham, Texas Arts and Music Festival.
307 So. Park Street, Brenham, Texas 77833
Sunday October 13, 2019 11 AM to 6 PM NEW SHIPMENT! One, Two, Three, Etc. is an arts and craft company in Houston that offers Peruvian jewelry, ornaments and accessories. The company will be selling at the Parish Bazaar at Saint John Vianney Catholic Church (see map below)
Steve Campbell November 2015 – Updated: October 6, 2019
Sunspots have been studied for over 400 years by such notable scientists as Galileo. Many earlier observers had noticed that the sun was occasionally marked with darker spots. But, Galileo spread the word about sunspots and many of his contemporaries subsequently took up regular observations of same.
Observation of Sunspots
Right here is where I will repeat a warning that you may have heard a hundred times before: Do not look directly at the Sun and especially DO NOT look at the Sun in a telescope. The only exception to that last part is where a Qualified Astronomer is using a proper solar filter or is projecting an image from a telescope onto a screen.
That Galileo made use of a telescope around this time was strictly coincidental. Observations of the Sun were done during sunrise and again at sunset when it is possible to notice large sunspots with minimum damage to the eye. The sunlight passes obliquely through the atmosphere and is very much attenuated.
An image of the sun can be projected by a “camera obscura” which is essentially a darkened room with a tiny opening – literally, a “pin hole”- through which the sunlight enters. For reasons we won’t go into here, a pin hole acts like a lens and focuses light. By careful placement of a screen of cloth or paper, a focused image appears, large and bright enough to sketch. The astronomer Johannes Kepler was known to have used this system to view the sun. In an interesting side note, Kepler thought he was seeing the planet Mercury passing between the Earth and the Sun, instead of a spot on the sun itself. Had he checked on the following day, he would have seen the same spot and because he knew that a Mercury transit would not last a day, he would have seen his error.
The method of projecting an image from a telescope onto a screen was developed by a protégé of Galileo named Benedetto Castelli.
“It was Castelli who developed the method of projecting the Sun’s image through the telescope, a technique that made it possible to study the Sun in detail even when it was high in the sky”. (1)
The following quote explains a bit about the “Sunspot Number” which was established as the metric of sunspot activity.
“Continuous daily observations were started at the Zurich Observatory in 1849 and earlier observations have been used to extend the records back to 1610. The sunspot number is calculated by first counting the number of sunspot groups and then the number of individual sunspots.” (2)
I would be remiss if I did not include actual images of sunspots with this discussion. Figure A shows a recent image of the sun taken by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). This is a NASA space probe that orbits between the Sun and the Earth constantly monitoring the Earth-facing side of the Sun.
By the method described (Count the groups and multiply by ten then add the number of individual spots), I would estimate the sunspot number to be between 35 and 45. Don’t quote me. I know there are limits to how small individual spots can be and still be counted, but I don’t know what those rules are.
Figure B shows an image of the Sun during the Cycle 23 Maximum.
I am not sure of the origin of this image, it may not be from the SOHO probe, but in any case, it illustrates the difference between high and low sunspot counts. Again, I don’t do this for a living, but I would guess the count here to be well over 100.
Update Oct 2019:
Update 10/06/2019: Spotless Days plot:
THe following graph requires some explanation. For the complete version, go to the SILSO Spotless Days Page
For the mercifully short version read my explanation, below the graph.
The solar cycle, in all its years of observed activity, has had (arguably) two types of cycles. Those with large peaks and short minimums between – and those with small peaks and long minimums between. The graph above segregates the two types as averages (the solid red and blue lines) and plots the number af spotless days accumulated in the current cycle (solid green line). The dotted pale blue and magenta lines are the “standard deviation” plots for the low-peak minimua (cyan) and high-peak minima (magenta). “Standard deviation” is what science nerds say instead of “what is reasonable to expect”. As you see, the current Solar Minimum has just revealed itself to be a big minimum like the other low-peak mimina.
Conclusion: The chart indicates a long current minimum, with more than normal spotless days (even when averaging other spotless deep minima) and probably another low-peak maximum after that.
Summary: Expect colder temperatures for the next decade or three.
Note: NASA predictions are said to be for an extended solar minimum. I am having trouble finding documentation of this (or any other prediction from NASA) – I’ll get back to you. -Steve
The only “official” prediction of Solar Cycle 25 I can find (from NOAA and NASA) forecasts a peak in 2023 to 2026 and a peak value of 95 to 130. That would make it a virtual “twin” of the already low Cycle 24.
Update 12/14/2019 (3)
Below: The latest prediction is a bit more constrained. Your humble narrator predicts that the double peak will again show up. – no doubt with greater separation as indicated by the last 3 cycles. (see figure D)
Figure below shows the accumulated sunspot numbers over the last 400 years of solar observations.
It is ironic that Galileo took an interest in sunspots and popularized such observations just in time for the Maunder Minimum when sunspots gradually became rare phenomena. The Maunder Minimum is associated with the Little Ice Age, when weather was cooler than today. The numbers of that time are yearly averages due to the sparsity of observations. From about 1750 onward monthly averages are plotted – results of sustained, systematic observation. The Maunder Minimum is still a valid conclusion, but the data cannot be said to be “high resolution”. The later Dalton Minimum is much better defined and typically associated historically with “Dickensian Winters”. In recent years, those types of winters are returning to England.
Figure D is a plot of NASA Sunspot Numbers for the two previous and the current sunspot cycles. It clearly shows the declining trend.
Magnetism and the Climate Connection
It is the changing magnetic field of the Sun that drives the existence or absence of sunspots. The Solar magnetic field changes on a long time scale and with different periods of oscillation. The most obvious of these is an eleven-year cycle that dominates in Figures C &D. The magnetic properties actually reverse in polarity in each new cycle, which makes it a twenty-two-year cycle in reality. Periods of high sunspot activity are associated with high magnetic field strength and a dearth of sunspots is an indication of low magnetic intensity.
A plot of terrestrial magnetic field strength in Figure E demonstrates the cyclical nature of the terrestrial magnetic field as influenced by the sunspot cycle. (3)
As indicated by the note in the seventies, periods of lower terrestrial magnetic field strength are associated with colder weather. This effect has been explained by the work of Henrik Svensmark (6) who demonstrated that magnetism effectively blocks cosmic rays. But, when the field strength is low, the increase of cosmic rays makes cloud formation increase and global temperatures drop. Now that the Ap index has dropped to unprecedented lows and the global temperatures have failed to increase as predicted by many, this association would seem to be confirmed.
The fact that ”official” temperatures have not actually dropped may have something to do with the manipulation of those datasets by certain individuals who have reduced the number of weather stations averaged from over 6000 to about 400 and shifted the average latitude of those stations from that of Oklahoma City to that of Hawaii (5). Please note that before they began eliminating stations (circa 1975), the average was indeed, dropping! See figure F.
- An examination of sunspot trends clearly indicates a new Solar Minimum (of Dalton or Maunder proportions) is in the works. A cooler environment is to be expected in the coming decades.
- When climate considerations come into a subject, a thorough search always seems to reveal data manipulation has occurred. All with the same result – a cooler past and a warmer present.
- A major audit of Climate Science seems in order.
October 29, 2016 (Reprinted from the WordPress site on 10/02/2019)
Flying J Truck Stop, Waterloo, Iowa – Highway 20, exit 68
This nomadic lifestyle that has taken over my existence has ramifications that reach every aspect of life.
Socially, I am pretty much a hermit with a cell phone. Part of that is my life-long character, but it has been exaggerated by Over the Road Trucking. Even when I have some time and am feeling lonely, I have a total of about five contacts before I run out of people to call. Three of them are my immediate family.
Physically, I have lost 70 pounds, my blood pressure has plummeted and I feel much more energetic and alert.
Emotionally, I feel great when I drive. Pickups and deliveries are interesting, but frustrating sometimes. The 34 hour breaks are difficult, but writing helps to alleviate the boredom and depression.
I am going now to drop my empty trailer at a meat plant. I will “bobtail” out and find shelter in the other truck stop across the street. After that, I call every hour or two to find out if my loaded trailer is ready, then I activate my clock and go pull the trailer back here to weigh it. Then, we are Off on the Road to Rocky Hill, Connecticut.
Road Ranger/Pilot Truck Stop, Waterloo, Iowa – Highway 20, exit 68
Diet has also changed. I buy deli meat, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes to make sandwiches, mostly. I have not had a “meat and potatoes” meal since I left the house in August. When supplies run down and I can’t manage to arrange a Walmart visit, I have to get creative. I ran out of lunch meat and bread, but I have a secret stash of canned spiced ham*. See photo below of my latest creation.
Above: Haute Cuisine de Camionneur – Jambon épicé avec fromage et concombre sur la laitue
Spam was introduced by Hormel in 1937. Ken Daigneau, brother of a company executive, won a $100 prize that year in a competition to name the new item. Hormel claims that the meaning of the name “is known by only a small circle of former Hormel Foods executives”, but popular beliefs are that the name is an abbreviation of “spiced ham”, “spare meat”, or “shoulders of pork and ham”. Another popular explanation is that Spam is an acronym standing for “Specially Processed American Meat” or “Specially Processed Army Meat”.
The difficulty of delivering fresh meat to the front during World War II saw Spam become a ubiquitous part of the U.S. soldier’s diet. It became variously referred to as “ham that didn’t pass its physical”, “meatloaf without basic training”, and “Special Army Meat”. Over 150 million pounds of Spam were purchased by the military before the war’s end.
During World War II and the occupations which followed, Spam was introduced into Guam, Hawaii, Okinawa, the Philippines, and other islands in the Pacific. Immediately absorbed into native diets, it has become a unique part of the history and effects of U.S. influence in the Pacific.
As a consequence of World War II rationing and the Lend-Lease Act, Spam also gained prominence in the United Kingdom. British prime minister during the 1980s Margaret Thatcher later referred to it as a “wartime delicacy”. In addition to increasing production for the U.K., Hormel expanded Spam output as part of Allied aid to the similarly beleaguered Soviet Union. Nikita Khrushchev declared: “Without Spam we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army”. Throughout the war, countries ravaged by the conflict and faced with strict food rations came to appreciate Spam.
Above: Jambon épicé (Spam – Glorious Spam! – it says so right there on the can)
Interstate 80 Service Area near Bryan, OH
I find myself in another of those giant service areas in Ohio. Rigs were parked out the entrance ramps as usual in the Northeast. I was lucky that I was arriving at 6 AM and the early risers were just leaving. I could snake my way through the late arrivals and find spaces open near the exit. My next leg will end about 2 AM and I will not be so fortunate then. This is a tight schedule and I can’t delay arrival. There are some parking-only areas on this route and those generally are big enough for all. I will defer further updates until I am sitting in the door in Rocky Hill, Connecticut.
Rest Area on Interstate 84 East of Scranton, near Paupack, Pensylvania
My own cargo of bananas was thirty eight thousand pounds, from Central America, by way of La Porte, Texas and I took them to Clarksville, Arkansas. And while I did travel down “The hill that leads to Scranton, Pennsylvania” last night, my own voyage was much less exciting.
Is now 11:00 AM, Eastern Daylight Time and there are snow flurries outside the truck – which is why I am inside the truck. My appointment is at 23:00 (11 PM) in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, which is a bit less than three hours away. I slept from 6 AM when I arrived until nature called and said I had to go out in the flurries to the “facilities”. I’ll will have “clock” for this journey in a few hours, so I will go back to sleep now and pick this up later.
It is early afternoon and I am preparing to make the run into Connecticut now. No snow is falling and the road is clear. I see traffic zooming by from where I sit.
Pilot Truck Stop #255, I95, exit 40 Milford, Connecticut
Another on-time delivery (OTD) accomplished. This one was a live un-load and they didn’’t have all the sissy rules about disconnecting the tractor. So, I get to enjoy the earthquake-like gyrations of the truck while multi-ton forklifts race in and out of the trailer, ultimately a few feet from where I am falling asleep. After I have paperwork in hand, I can leave. Now with no load or destination I can find refuge only 38 miles away in this Pilot where I can have a shower and sleep.
Before I can “get my clock back”, there is a new assignment to take pick up a trailer in New Jersey that is already loaded and waiting patiently for me to take it to Joliet, Illinois. That where Jake Blues was getting out of prison and Elwood showed up to take him back to the sleazy little apartment with the el train running just outside the window. If you have never seen this movie, you owe it to yourself.
Jill tells me, “You have eight hours and zero minutes of remaining drive time.” So, I must go now. I will be driving in daylight for the first time in four days. I hope I can find the sunglasses.
10/1/2019 – Reprinted from the WordPress site
Stop & Shop DC, Assonet, Massachusetts, September 6, 2016
How I Spent Labor Day
You may remember I was headed for the final stop on a meat load. It was another part of Massachusetts over by the East Coast. Once again, I back into a door and they unload the truck while I either write or try to sleep. They finish and tell me that there were some damaged goods. Four boxes of Beef Liver at fifteen pounds each. I have to inspect this for the claims department and dispose of it – two more of my unpaid duties. The cardboard of the boxes is bent, but the plastic wrapper on each liver is still sealed. In other words, this is perfectly acceptable product and it is stupid to waste it. In talking to the freight handlers (“Lumpers”) in Massachusetts and in most of the Northeast, I find that the language spoken among them is almost exclusively Spanish. Conveniently, I am fluent same and given my Gringo Good Looks, I am able to spring a thunderbolt of a surprise on these unsuspecting obreros. They are frankly astonished when – out of the blue – I speak their language more eloquently and correctly than they do. This is because I worked with Colombians and Peruvians who are quite crisp in their pronunciation and grammar. And Bolivians (I know you’re out there;-). I can also adopt a mush-mouth Maracaibo accent when the fancy strikes me. But it really hurts my head to do so. I can muster a convincing “Gringo” accent as well. Remind me to tell you the story of the country boy surveyor in Venezeula who told the local field crew to bring their coolers over to the truck so he could fill them with ice.
I did offer the 60 pounds of liver to the Receiving clerk, who politely asked me if I was crazy. I made same offer in Spanish and English to the Lumpers and Drivers. No dice! As I pointed out to one of them, if it were sirloin, they would all take it. Heck, for sixty pounds of sirloin I would find a way to get it home. I called (from the receiving phone) to the Salvation Army and another charity. Neither was open for Labor Day, but the Salvation Army God-Blessed me on their voice mail message. Finally I left with the 60 pounds of liver figuratively hung from a twine around my neck like an albatross. At the gate I have to open the cargo doors to show that I’m not pilfering and I mentioned the liver to the guard. He called a Catholic food bank director who came over personally to take the liver off my hands. The guard let me linger in the 5 minute parking until the director showed up. Apparently this kind of scenario happens frequently. That is, the damage is limited to the container while the product is completely intact.
While that was transpiring, I got a message that my load from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania had been canceled. A new load from New Jersey to Laredo took its place. While I was deadheading (driving with an empty trailer) to New Jersey, that load was also canceled. Fortunately, it was another New Jersey shipper, so the travel wasn’t wasted. But, I ran into traffic coming back from Labor Day and decided that attempting New York City was best left to the wee small hours of the morning. Every last space of the fuel stop parking was taken, but I found a “Service Plaza” before the Bronx. It was from there, on the public WiFi that I got a message out about the “graveyard dead” iPhone.
On to New Jersey , Lucca Cold Storage Vineland, NJ
The drive in the morning was astonishingly uncomplicated. Truckers complain about the George Washington Bridge mostly because the lanes are narrow, but I found both the bridge and the river quite scenic. Admittedly, it was like the following: Jerk head to left, briefly look at river, then eyes back to the road in a hurry. The same on the right. Yup, scenic!
I got to the new shipper where more Spanish speaking Lumpers loaded my truck with exactly four pallets that took up about the first six feet of the 53 foot trailer and did not rise above 4 feet in height. The total weight is 590 pounds. Frozen catfish – destined for two different Wal Mart distribution centers in Texas. This trip makes no economic sense at all. I will burn about 250 gallons of diesel fuel to get this relatively tiny load to Texas. Between that, my pay and the overhead it already will cost over two dollars a pound just to put the product on the shelf. But, as long as they still pay the going rate, who am I to complain? Far from it. The light load means I will not have to play the downshift game while climbing hills.
The loading was two hours late, there was confusion about the tiny size of the load and the flashing red light that told me not to move refused to go out. The Company (that’s what I will call the people I work for, from now on) thinks that this is a produce load. They have certain rules and procedures for produce that are stricter and require more free work from the drivers. There is no possibility of convincing the system that fish is not produce, so I need to report a set of read-outs from the refrigeration unit every 12 hours. I took care of all these niggling details, sent my required messages and hit the road.
All that took a lot of time out of the middle of my driving day. So, now my 14 hour total on-duty span was eating up 11 hour clock, but I had about 4 hours left to drive. It was counting down whether I was driving or not, so I hastened to make use of the time. There is no “taking a break” in this situation. The remaining drive hours just counts down at 60 seconds per minute, no matter what.
You Can’t Get There From Here
Ultimately, I was caught out. I ran into traffic around Washington and Baltimore and wound up in a race to get to I-81 in Virginia and the truck stop at exit 323. I lost. Jill had routed me down state highways and I was paralleling I-81 and needed to jog over to it and go back North to the exit. Time was running out and when I stopped in front of a restaurant to tell Jill where the truck stop was and check the mileage left. I found I had 24 miles to go and 15 minutes do it. The truck doesn’t go that fast.
Panic ensued as my mind raced to think of a way out of this nightmare. A slow dawn arose in my brain as I realized I was looking about 150 feet past the closed restaurant at a patch of land with a long abandoned parking lot where grass was growing out of cracks in the asphalt. I pulled up and backed the truck into it and managed to get 50 feet between the cab and the highway. I was back toward the trees in a reasonably inconspicuous place to hide for 10 hours. I was trapped there by Federal Regulations for the time being.
About an hour later, another truck shows up. The driver is Russian and asks me if it’s OK to park. He is in the same regulatory limbo as I am. I generously welcome him to my new truck stop. I am calling it The Ad Hoc Truck Stop (#1).
Ad hoc is a Latin phrase meaning “for this”. In English, it generally signifies a solution designed for a specific problem or task, non-generalizable, and not intended to be able to be adapted to other purposes.
Above: Kenworth # 12946 at the Ad Hoc Truck Stop (#1). I turned off the lights right after this and tried to “blend in” to the trees.
By the time I am fully charged with drive time at five AM, there are two more trucks parked over by the still closed restaurant. There is a real estate broker’s sign here that advertises this as income producing property. While the spot seems quite popular as a truck stop, the trouble is that unless you sell fuel, truckers are pretty self-sufficient. For example, I have had dinner, watched television, slept comfortably through the night and then awakened and had breakfast with a cup of coffee. I have not spent a dime. No restroom facilities, but I did need to check the tires for leaks during the night.
Let’s See This Through to the End
Wal-Mart Distribution Center (DC) #6056, Terrell, Texas, September 9, 2016 9:40 AM
In the interest of having something complete to move on from, I will finish the sage of the frozen catfish. By the way, these were “Farm Raised” catfish. I had seen the words “Wild Caught” on the Bill of Lading earlier, but upon further investigation, it was only one item per pallet listed as such. It is the data logger that records the temperature history of the cargo. Somebody in New Jersey has a sense of humor.
I am waiting to be unloaded at the Wal-Mart DC in Terrell, Texas. I was 50 minutes early. Their system is for me to back in the door and then uncouple and move my tractor to a parking area. I had the trailer in the door about 7:45. So, now my trailer’s refrigeration unit (“Reefer”) is trying its best to bring the entire warehouse down to 34° Fahrenheit while they ignore the now thawing two (2) pallets of frozen fish (that I had watched over like a new mother for 1500 miles). It has been an hour and a half. The warehouse is kept cool, but it is nowhere near 34F. The powered pallet jacks these guys drive can unload both pallets at once and get it to cold storage in less than 10 minutes. I could have used an unpowered pallet jack and walked both to the freezer in 30 minutes. I could have hand carried all the boxes in less than an hour. The other DC’s cargo is also thawing in my now-opened-for-the-first-time-since-sealed trailer.
Very soon, I will again be into the 14 hour clock eating my driving time again. I need at least 5 hours of drive time and to arrive at the truck stop near the final by 4:30 PM. That will allow me to get to the last stop (another Wal-Mart Distribution Center) on time. Being late will, of course be heaped at my door. No matter that another Wal-Mart DC made me late.
Flying J Truck Stop, New Caney, Texas, September 9, 2016 8:50 PM
Once again, I exist at this Oasis in Limbo where all of us are prisoners of the Clock, serving out our 10 hour sentences so we may drive again. Over the road truckers are adrift in time. Some of us here are just waking up, some here for the 30 minute mandatory break in the middle of a driving day, some finally collapsing in the sleeper after a 600 mile sojourn.
Word came that Louis, my oldest son, is in the hospital for Diverticulitis again. I called to talk to him. They don’t think an operation will be necessary, but he has been in serious enough pain to merit a morphine IV. He seems mostly irritated at the prospect of another boring hospital stay. I am encouraged, because grumpy people are usually not seriously ill. It’s when they give up and become polite and co-operative that you have to worry. My father had been like that in his final hours. I mentioned that I could possibly come by to see Number One Son, but he told me to get another load and earn more money. He has no doubt been listening to his mother worry about expenses, now that I have joined the ranks of the underemployed.
At midnight, my eight day, 70 hour clock picks up the 10 hours and 43 minutes I used up nine days ago, making 11 hours and 29 minutes. I will awaken at a quarter till two, when my 11 hour clock is renewed after the ten hours in Limbo. The 14 hour clocks start when I log my pre trip inspection, shortly before I leave to deliver the last of the catfish. That should take exactly two hours at the DC, since they would have to pay me to stay longer. That is called “detention pay” and was a procedure adopted when drivers refused loads to certain abusive DC’s who burn up all their drive time while they wait to be unloaded. I have it from knowledgeable sources that Wal-Mart DC 7010 would drag out unloading for seven hours, throwing away the drive time of drivers who – like me for the last few days – have their 11 hour clock consumed by the 14 hour clock. When they do that, it is like they reached into the driver’s pocket, pulled out a hundred dollars or so, and burned it in front of his eyes.
Now that they have to pay drivers some little pittance, they are suddenly all about efficiency, getting them in and out of the doors in exactly the free two hours. We will pick up the story tomorrow at the End of Trip. I’ll go use up one of my shower credits now.
Wal-Mart Distribution Center (DC) #7010, New Caney, Texas, September 10, 2016 3:53 AM
I hit the “rack” to have a short nap before going for a shower. There had been 14 showers available at 3 PM. At 8 PM there were 0 (Zero), so maybe after the final drop.
This DC has us break the seal, open the doors, bump the gate at the door and then uncouple and pull up about five feet. All this is to assure they won’t find the trailer moving while they ignore the thawing load for an hour or so – oh, and when they actually unload. I almost had an opportunity to unload myself and possibly capture the $50 they will pay to take two pallets to the freezer. It would have taken me less than a half hour, with a human-powered pallet jack, or maybe an hour carrying the 112 Gorton’s boxes in by hand. But, the Company has generously already agreed to pay that automatically to the illegal aliens – through a sub-contractor with legit credentials, of course.
It has been a full hour since I bumped the dock and the light in my mirror is still green, which means they have not even begun to think about unloading. My “Arrived” message and the gate records say I got here at (actually 20 minutes before) my appointment. I would bet you $100 that the call from Receiving telling me to pick up the paperwork will come at 5:10 AM – the “free” limit, before Detention Pay.
Detention Pay is really just a bunch of Fairy Dust, promised but never delivered. I looked it up. I would be (would be) paid $12.50 per hour for up to ten hours after the two free hours (they actually call them “free hours” in the Driver’s manual). This is payable in half hour increments, rounded off low. That price is about 80% of what I could make actually driving I will never see it anyway, but at least the threat of detention pay keeps the Receivers from stealing the drivers’ time. As we all know, Time is Money.
To sum up all this talk about clocks and limits:
- Drivers have a limited time per day – eleven hours – to drive, regardless of when it is done.
- Drivers must do all the day’s driving within a 14 hour window regardless of how much break time is done in that window – except when a continuous ten hour break occurs. Then another 14 hour window can begin.
- If pick up or delivery happens in the middle of the day and the delay exceeds three hours, now the Shipper/Receiver is taking hours that could be earning hours and turning them into “free” hours.
- The Eight Day 70 hour clock can also consume driving hours. On the 8th of September, for example, I had 11 driving hours and fourteen hours to do it. But, because my eight day clock was down to 7 hours and 44 minutes, that is all I was allowed to drive. The next day I “got back” 10 hours and change that I had used nine days before.
- And why this obsession with driving? Because, my friends, driving is the ONLY thing that actually results in wages. All the other stuff I have been telling you about is stuff I do for free so I can drive and make a living.
- By now you have heard more than you wanted to know about Federal regulations on trucker’s time and I will give that subject a rest, as well.
The empty call came about half an hour earlier than the two hours I expected. I went to Receiving to get my paperwork and found out why. There is a line of drivers waiting for documentation while the clerks finish it up. Clever. The call is the event logged as the end of the driver’s wait. How long the driver stands in line for paperwork does not apply to detention pay.
To end the Saga of the Catfish, I will include a photo that captures the now empty trailer’s futile attempt to air condition the world as I pull it out of the door to close up and move on to a new cargo.
Above: Trailer 15820T makes a valiant effort to bring down the Earth’s temperature to 26° Fahrenheit. Alas, 53 feet away is the hot end of the refrigeration cycle dumping all the heat the trailer sucked out of its interior.
Time Runs Out October 17, 2016 (Reprinted from WordPress – Sept 2, 2019)
You may recall the explanation of the Federal regulations on truck driving that I explained partially in The Unforgiving Clock. There is yet another onerous burden placed on the driver’s time called the 70 Hour or Eight Day Clock. That says that I cannot accumulate more than 70 hours of “on duty” time in any eight day period. That includes not only driving, but also the vehicle inspections, time at shipper or receiver and fueling times. All of those are watched over by a department back in Purgatory (NTSR) called “Compliance”. That organization is exactly as forgiving as its name implies.;-).
If drive times are moderate and on-duty-not-driving is limited, one can expect to spread 70 hours over days one through eight and then gain the hours of the ninth day back. That would let you continue to earn a pittance for all your time away from home. If, however, there are some long distance assignments that leave not much spare time, the day comes that your Eight Day Clock is down to five hours or so and you still have two hour’s worth of driving (and mucking about at the receiver) for the day and exactly zero hours to be regained tomorrow. Restoring the “fresh 70 hours” is a matter of abstaining from driving for 34 hours. The result of which is a forced “weekend” of poverty in a place you don’t want to be, when you would rather be earning a living,. Thanks a bundle, Federal Department of Transportation!
And that is why this post is originating in Albuquerque.
I am once again “Marooned” as in Thirty Four Hours in Ripon or again in Mostly Wisconsin. I know from those experiences and others that it is advisable to find some meaningful activity, thus to avoid being dragged down into the swirling maelstrom of desperate depression. Thus, this narrative becomes Queequeg’s Coffin to my Ishmael. If that metaphor escapes you, I am afraid you will have to read “Moby Dick” by Hermann Melville. You will learn more about whales than you ever wanted to know. The novel will also explain to you the origin of the name of a well-known chain of over-priced coffee houses.
I was obligated to read this in college. It was a burden at the time, as are most college assignments, but I re-read that same book I had bought for the course years later and actually found it fascinating and interesting. That was the exact same paperback edition that can be seen (on a shelf as Chekov discovers the “Botany Bay” belt buckle) in Star Trek II – the Wrath of Khan, which was heavily laced with Moby Dick references. The plot involved more than one “Marooning” as well, making it doubly appropriate. Ricardo Montalban played what I consider to be his greatest role ever.
If you don’t have time to read a bulky classic of literature, you can “cheat” and see the 1956 movie of the same name. It starred Gregory Peck, who thought himself too young for the “old man” role of Captain Ahab and Richard Basehart who (older than Peck) was too old for the role of “young man” Ishmael. There was also a well-played supporting role by Orson Wells as Father Maple. If you view the trailer, Queequeg is the shirtless gent with the elaborate body and facial tattoos. While I was researching how exactly to spell “Queequeg”, I discovered a restaurant by that name. While naming establishments after characters in Moby Dick has proven wildly successful in at least one case, I feel I must point out that Queequeg was a cannibal – albeit a fictional one.
Breaking the Seal
When delivering a cargo, it is typical that the Receiver tells the Driver to break the seal, open the trailer doors and back into a warehouse cargo door. Usually the seals are plastic bands that can be broken with bare hands. Coca-Cola, however, has seen fit to make their seals with stainless steel cables. Not with a crow bar and hacksaw could I manage to sever the cable and trucks with impatient drivers were accumulating behind me while I struggled with it. The yard tractor -atypically – at least twice passed me as I struggled, without stopping. One driver loaned me a pair of wire cutters that made short work of it all. Her motives were entirely selfless since I was not blocking her rig. I returned the cutters with thanks and resolved to buy a pair before the next load.
The truck stop sells a line of tools and I found a pair of tin snips – the only candidate that might do the job. I tried them out on the remains of the Coke seal. You see the results. Not to worry, I was able to gnaw away at the cable with the pretend-tool until it finally surrendered – in a minute or two. The second photo shows what I knew that I would find on the label.
Above: It is a shame that the Company has to pay for such substandard tools.
Watch Out for That Next Wave
I reckon all of you receive unsolicited ads and promotions. I got one from LinkedIn that makes me a bit paranoid. A jackass who wants to replace truck drivers with robots.
Someone at LinkedIn figures that a 61 year-old man who took up truck driving when he was forced out of a professional position to be replaced by thirty-somethings would be interested in this neophyte who wants to drive him out of that occupation as well?
Let me think…NoThankYouVeryMuch!
The Answer is 42
My life has become my job.
Like most sweeping, unqualified statements, that one is full of unexplained circumstances and unexamined definitions of the very words that make up the sentence.
I reckon I had better start with the thoughts in my head when I first typed the words.
I spend all of my physical presence in or around this vehicle. I sleep in it, eat meals in it and I am mostly never more than a few hours away from it.
When you think about it, that – in itself – is not much more than saying that it is my home. I don’t own it, but most people do not own their own homes – at least not outright. This particular home is unusual in that it moves around the country, which is why its owners let me live in it. The “rent” I pay is by guiding it around and hauling big trailers (also theirs) that carry stuff to different places for profit. There is enough value in that pastime that they also pay me a commission based on how far I make this home travel.
My family live in other homes which circumstances allow that I visit occasionally. Most recently I visited my younger son in Dallas at his home on the University Campus there. It is unfortunate that there are few opportunities to visit Houston where my wife and older son live in the place I previously could claim was my home. We own that one! I will make it home – that particular home – around Thanksgiving for five days.
So, you see that whatever interaction I have now with my family is just something I work into the small gaps in my job. I can speak to them most any time. Using Skype or other such facility, we could actually see each other. I have not done that yet and I am not sure why.
I have noticed that the trip from shipper to receiver is the most pleasant and satisfying part of my life as it has become. The beginning and end of the trip are fraught with confusion and misspent energy. The third part is these interludes wherein I am neither loading, unloading nor traveling and that segment is the hardest to endure. It is made less onerous when I write, so you may expect more of that activity.
I have discovered that I keep writing because it hurts when I don’t.
Deep Thought (see The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
A destination is just an excuse for a journey. It is the journey that gives meaning to existence. If you doubt me, then:
Will you accept the metaphor that life is a journey?
If so, then what is the destination?
No matter what your answer to that last question, are you in a hurry to get there?
Over The Road,
October 13, 2016 “Reprinted” August 31, 2019 from WordPress
Last Chapter, there was a load assignment waiting and it was a good one. I pick up a load of meat in Sioux Falls South Dakota and deliver it to Stockton, California. Wyoming, Utah and Nevada are in between.
I am still starting my driving day just after midnight and it is working well. The roads are clear and the truck stops uncrowded when I arrive. The deadhead from Roberts Wisconsin goes smoothly. I made a 30 minute break in a rest area near Blue Earth Minnesota. At 4 AM it was eerily silent and empty. I have been puzzled about the origin of the name Blue Earth since I encountered it in 1973 while traveling to Minnesota to meet the family of my step mother. I cannot yet tell you where it comes from, since I cannot manage an internet connection from this dusty little town in Northern Nevada where I am writing.
(From Ripon, California) Blue Earth gets its name from the Blue Earth River that surrounds the town. The river was given the Native American name “Mahkota” (meaning Blue Earth) for the blue-black clay found in the river banks.
The stars are particularly bright and the Milky way is plainly visible when I can put the truck between me and the flood lights. The Astronomer in me is not yet lost, but he does not get much time on the field
Above: Orion is a constant of the winter sky. Go see it if you get a chance. The red star is Betelgeuse. The three stars down by the “x” are called Orion’s Sword”. There is a technique called “averted vision” which I will teach you now. Look at those three stars in Orion’s Sword. They will look like ordinary dim stars. Now look away just a little bit – about where the “x” is. Notice that the middle star will go “fuzzy” on you. That is the Orion Nebula. Averted vision works because the light detecting cells in your peripheral vision are more sensitive than in the direct line of view. Weird, but true.
I tried to grab photos by blindly clicking the camera at these majestic sights without taking my eyes off the road. This is a very inefficient process that produces a lot of reject pictures that are either blurry, full of dashboard reflections or just don’t live up to the scenery. For each one you see here, there are ten or more that don’t make the cut.
This state starts off as rolling hills of dry grassland and ends that way. Even after my vigorous culling, there is a beauty to which this picture still does not do justice.
There must be a better way to capture images. I am looking into a time-lapse dash camera. Recommendations?
“Reprint” from WordPress site
Ohio “Service Area” Interstate 80 10/06/2016
From Pennsylvania, the route is a day and a half down Interstate 80. Since I had only six hours remaining on my 8 day clock, I don’t get my 11 for the first day and then I spent two hours of that drive time dragging a trailer back and forth to the wash shop. I have yet to figure out why Ohio is permitted to put toll booths on an interstate. But because it is “limited access” they have built these “Service Plazas” every 30 miles or so along I80. There are no other truck stops unless you toll out and go down an intersecting highway.
The “Plazas” are nice though, with rest rooms and food courts. They have trucker’s lounges with showers and laundromats. There are lots of truck spaces but, even so I have seen some of these places overflowing out both entrance and exit with last-chance sleeping trucks, during my night driving.
“I, The Whistler know many things, for I walk by night…”
So, it was an easy first day, if a bit short.
Above: The food court at a Service Area on Interstate 80 in Ohio.
Large Asphalt Parking Lot, Loves* Park, Illinois 10/07
*not associated with the truck stop chain.
On the second day, I “gained” the 9 hours and change that I used up 9 days before. It still is short of the 11 but with careful management, I’ll make the delivery on time. I pushed the time limit to 26 minutes and would have gone on if there had been another possible stop. I pulled in to the Pilot truck stop I had all picked out and found, to my horror that they had no parking. I don’t mean that the space were all full, you realize. I mean to say that they had no spaces at all – it is a fuel-only station. It says that (“Parking N/A”) on the Pilot/Flying J App, but I did not manage to notice same.
You may remember I have learned that the answer to these sort of major problems are not to be found by calling “the Company” but rather by asking (nicely!) the people who work where the problem comes up. They have seen it all!! Sure enough, the nice lady at the Pilot referred me to a place called “Farm and Fleet”, just down the road.
Above: Parking at Farm and Fleet. They do seem to have plenty of room, but I asked first and parked way out on the edge. They are like Home Depot, but they did have a small non-refrigerated food section where I was able to get snack foods and summer sausage and mixed nuts. No bread, but I bought some rye crisps.
Flying J Truck Stop, Roberts Wisconsin 10/08
The load was delivered and a new assignment was denied me because I am low on service hours. It means a 34 hour stand down in a truck stop in Wisconsin. As I have mentioned before, truck stops are usually isolated and boring. These are the times when depression creeps out of its box. I try to shake it off, but… “I find myself growing grim about the mouth…it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul” – Mellville
I called my wife to chat for a while, but she is busy preparing for a trade show. Elder Son has only a few minutes to talk before returning to Professional Cheffery. Youngest, likewise has College stuff to do after a brief chat with Dad. Without the road to occupy my mind and time, there is only sleep to break the monotony. To keep my oddball work schedule, I need to go to bed in the early afternoon. “Morning” is two AM. No waiting for a shower, at least. The temperature outside is 35° F. The truck is still a bit warmer with residual heat from the day. After a few hours of reading the news and current events, depression has returned in force. By six AM, I am sleepy, in addition to depressed and bored…and it is getting colder. Now with jacket and two pair of socks, I settle for a nap. At eight, I awake shivering. The climate control I adjust to maximum heat. I pull on my support socks and cover those with “conventional” socks because my circulation-impaired feet are freezing. After a half hour, let’s see the temperature at the air vent:
Above: One of my trucker accouterments* is above pictured. The “pulp thermometer” is to measure produce but can also find out just how cold the “heater” air is.
*Accouterments was indeed the word I was looking for but MS Word said it was misspelled. For some reason, the Spellcheck function will not give me the correct spelling, but only underlines it in red until I fix it. I have never been good at guessing English spellings and I was always among the first to “be seated” at the spelling B preliminaries. But, I have found a way around that. One needs only to find the correct spelling of a synonym and then key the Thesaurus. That did not work when I typed “paraphenalia” or several other attempts at that word. I had no idea it had an “r” and it never occurred to me to try that! But “equipment” I could spell and that lead me to “paraphernalia” and from there to “accouterments”.
Spelling aside, please excuse me while I start the really big Cummins Diesel engine to get some heat in here. There are laws against “idling” here. There are signs everywhere to that effect. That is why we have Auxiliary Power Units (APU). You know, like the one keeping my bunk at a comfortable 48°F. After all, that is much warmer than the 9 AM temperature outside, i.e., 35° F. I need to go find one of those signs to see how long a run is defined as “idling”.
Nevertheless, in minutes, the cab is tolerable, if still “crisp” and I can shut off the main engine for a while. I was going to get you a horsepower number for the engine, but here is what the owner’s manual says under “engine identification”: “For further information., please refer to the Engine Operation and Maintenance Manual.” I don’t have one of those. I don’t have the APU manual, either – in case you were thinking to suggest that I look in that.
Here is the control panel for the APU heating and cooling.
Above: Seems easy. Just put the selector (left) to heat – the wavy lines. Then turn the thermostat to hot – the thick red zone for the center knob. Then the fan (right) to medium. That’s how I got 48° F
I find another cryptic little LCD (Liquid Crystal Display, for the non-Cretaceous readers) panel below that seems to promise a solution:
Above: Heater Stopped. I just have to start it, eh?
Above: Just press the middle power button and now it says “heater enabled”. No problem, right?
Above: A short while later: “No flame detect” seems to indicate that this thing burns diesel fuel to make heat. Could it have a pilot light, like a natural gas water heater? Note the extremely useful series of numbers at top.
Despite the error message the air exiting the vent is now up to 59° F. Progress.
The depression has vanished while I concentrated on telling you this story. I predict an Epiphany soon concerning this Walkabout.
I am going for a stroll now and to bed soon. When I awake I will have a “full clock” and be ready to drive. My new manager promised a prompt load assignment at that time.