Category: Over The Road

Somewhere in Oklahoma

stevesafetyglassesJanuary 11, 2019      homepage

Many of my readers will be happy to know that I have again found employment in the Seismic Industry – as much out of friendship as of appreciation that I will not be complaining about being unemployed.  I will be somewhere in Oklahoma for a few weeks  A project in Texas is penciled in for later.  The client has rules about posting photos and project information, so I am intentionally vague.  If you are also in Seismic, you can guess who the client is.  The company may have such rules and so they will be referred to as “the Company”.  The photo below is not related to the project or the Company.  (As far as I know, the project does not extend to the sky).  This is an example of  “Sundogs” which is a pair of bright spots of refracted sunlight that illuminate a cloud layer.  This is fairly rare and I have seen it maybe 5 times in as many decades.

sundogs_crop_arrows2

A rainbow, by comparison, is both reflected and refracted and appears in the sky opposite of the sun.

Below (left) in my Personal Protective equipment.  (Yes, I will trim the beard soon) hardhatsteve

My job is driving the fuel truck. Fortunately for me, haz-mat drivers are in demand just now.    I don’t have a lot of spare time, so stay tuned!

Hasta Luego,

Steve

Purgatory

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August 7, 2016

Purgatory

[pur-guh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee]

  1. any condition or place of temporary punishment, suffering, expiation, or the like.

    I am now “on the Yard” at company headquarters.  I have dropped my trailer and been assigned another truck.  This one is a real mystery.  A Kenworth T680 built in November, 2013.  It looks almost new, drives and shifts smoothly and is “clean as a whistle”.  The odometer reads 35,000 miles.  And that would seem impossible.

This truck has been “on the fleet” for two and a half years and should have at least five or six times that mileage.  The Peterbilt is just about that old and it has 385,000 miles. While I am lucky to have such a low mileage vehicle, I can’t help but wonder what the story is behind this machine.  One thing that is completely out of place in this story is the condition of the forward drive axle.  Its tires are nearly at the legal minimum for tread  depth, while its brother’s tires to the rear are almost new.  I have requested that these tires (the baldies, that is) be replaced.

I pull up the Kenworth “across the bow” of the Peterbilt to transfer the refrigerator first and then all my other possessions.  It can’t stay there long, but I don’t need long.  Next I swap the Peterbilt out of the “good” parking spot and put the Kenworth into same.   I drove the Peterbilt over by the garage where I would turn in the keys in the morning.  Then, I collapsed in the Kenworth because what I just described was a lot of work.  Fortunately, the Kenworth has a working Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) that keeps the cabin habitable through the hot Dallas evening.

12946.jpg

Above: 2014 model Kenworth T680 – 12946.  Note the windshield shade with cool-looking beach scene.  It reflects the heat ,  yes.  But more importantly, it marks my truck so I can find it later.  Please see “Tractor Row” below for explanation.

TractorRowDay.jpgAbove:  “Tractor Row” The one with the cool-looking beach scene in the windshield is mine.

CaptainsDesk12946Above:  The Kenworth has a desk that does not look like a piece of plywood.

PurgatoryAbove:  Purgatory’s Backside.  The small building in the foreground has the driver’s lounge where trucker stereotypes are preserved by drivers leaving their empty soda bottles and pizza cartons strewn across the tables and floors while the trash cans in the room remain empty.

In the morning, I have lots to do before I am allowed to leave the Yard.  These activities include safety lectures and dealing with “compliance” (recordkeeping to comply with federal regulations on driving time – it’s complicated).  Then I need my Driver Manager’s approval and that of “Central Clearance” – they check all my registrations and paperwork. I cannot get my truck out the gate without all these items ticked off the list.  And those tires I requested apparently are still being manufactured and will be shipped out by mule train sometime next week.

Fact is, I don’t have a load, yet anyway, so there is nowhere to go.  And, it does not matter anyway because all the people who can provide “approval” for my departure have gone home at noon, today, Saturday.  They will not return until Monday when dozens of other drivers – trapped in Purgatory with me – will compete to get their clearance.  So, another two days (minimum) of no income. This has become a recurring theme in the “high-paying-job-as-a-professional-truck-driver”.

Farewell 12573 – We Hardly Knew Ye!

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August 5, 2016       Garland, Texas     homepage


I am reminded that today is Christmas Day

                    So, Please also have a look at this Christmas Classic

I have been instructed to report to the “Yard” in Dallas and turn in my truck.  It has apparently been sold.    I asked how long it might take  to get a new truck.  The answer was “Depends”.  I should have replied, “No, Fruit of the Loom – briefs” but my comedic reflexes are slow these days.

The last time I was issued a truck, I expected a worst case scenario.  Specifically, since I had driven and was familiar with Kenworths and Freightliners in training, that I would be issued a Peterbilt.  Good instincts, as it turns out.  The clutch gave me trouble from the start, with what is called “clutch chatter”.  Not severe and the only other Peterbilt I had driven (only for a half hour or so) had the same problem. In any case, the clutch was a body-builder tool and I was soon walking with a limp because of all the excess muscle in my left leg.  Not a big problem, until it was a big problem.

The last episode of mechanical adversity cost me ten days of poverty.  The company pays an insulting $25 per day for breakdowns after the first two days.  The company wanted to nickel-and-dime the hotel. I would have to call and get authorization every day.  We tried that on check-in and they refused the company card so  I covered the hotel with my own credit card and expensed it back to avoid looking like a deadbeat every afternoon.   They have at least reimbursed me for that.  They tend to treat drivers as people with no financial means whatsoever.  That is probably appropriate considering the level of remuneration.

One wonders what delays are in store for the next truck.

12573Anon

Above is the Peterbilt in question as we “sit in a door” in Garland, Texas.  The “lumpers” unload for hours while the driver kills time…taking photos, say.  This receiver was mercifully quick and I left no more than three hours after arrival.  From here I go to the “Yard”…Company Headquarters.  There, to put the old mare out to pasture (tractors are female and trailers, male by virtue of their “connecting equipment”).

Twenty Mules

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September 12, 2016, Tyson Plant, Wadron, Arkansas

After the delivery at Clarksville, I headed for the closest truck stop on I-40, to wait for a new load assignment.  This was another of those “pocket” stations where parking for 20 rigs is jammed in behind the fuel island.  Both that parking and the surrounding streets were full, so I looked up rest stops and found one on I 40, not far away, with “Room at the Inn”.In a Homer Simpson moment I realized I had not sent my “Empty at Destination” message.  No load assignment will happen before that.  Once that was done, the message came within seconds – obviously set up in advance.  My load picks up in Waldron, Arkansas.  This place was about an hour and a half away, down US-23, a winding, up-and-down two-lane blacktop with no shoulders.  It would make a great motorcycle trip.  It makes a big-truck trip where paying attention is a survival trait.

Frozen chicken is the new cargo.  It started out looking like a  24 hour ordeal of drop the empty trailer one morning and hook a loaded trailer the next.  I had all day to drop, but why wait?  I got in the gate before 8 AM and found the office with some guidance from a helpful employee.  These guys all wear warm, long-sleeve jumpsuits, steel-toe boots and carry mittens.  They keep the warehouse cold since this is frozen chicken they load.

The guys in shipping told me to back into door #4.  Apparently this would be a live load!  So, I don’t ask questions, I just get to the truck and look for the door.  It is in an inside corner, with a trailer parked sideways on the approach, a really big tank, a dumpster and a trash compactor in front.  About 45 minutes were needed to get this one done.  I got some pictures, but photography is not allowed in the plant, so don’t tell anyone.

chickendoor4a
Figure 1

Above:  In this view, doors one, two and three are to the left, door five to the right – all occupied with dropped trailers.  That dumpster on the right comes in to the story later.

ChickenDoor4BRotate
Figure 2

Plan A:Pulling in from stage right, (figure one) until the tank was looming in the windshield, backing the trailer in while folding the drivers-side of the tractor into the trailer.  That backed the trailer into yellow post at the corner.

Above:  Plan B was to pull over  in front of the trailers, (stage left in figure 2) (PRIME inc., etcetera) and back around the parked trailer (whose taillights you see) into the door.  To quote Chico Marx, “Dat’s a-no good, too”.  Plan C: Drive out and to the left and find a place to swap ends with the entire rig.  Where? – Back in beside the last visible trailer (there is a sign there that says, “Don’t even think of parking here. ” Who’s parking?)  Then pull past taillight trailer and the trailers (no tractors) in doors one, two and three, swing wide and put the tractor in the space between the compactor and the dumpster, seen in the previous photo.  Then reverse into door #4. That worked.

September 14, 2016 7 PM, Loves Truck Stop at Williams, AZ

While waiting (and not long) for the load to be put on board, I worked on the trip plan.  If I can get  a couple of hundred miles behind me it will take the distance off of the final run to delivery, in three days’ time.  The problem is not drive time, but all the waiting at first receiver, then shipper has again worn down the 14 hours and I must get on the road asap/

My trip plan is only roughed out when the loading is finished and so I submit Oklahoma City as the target for the day and promise the Driver Manager (DM) that I’ll finish the plan later. It is a matter of driving as far as practical and finding a place to stop for ten hours (A “Ten”). I soon see that OKC is out of reach and I have looked up the exit numbers of the truck stops and rest areas. A rest area near Henryetta wins the stop and, now committed, I see as I pull in a sign that says “No Facilities”.  OK, it does beat the Ad Hoc  Truck Stop (#1) since I knew it was there before arriving.  At Three PM, mine is the only truck parked.  By the time I roll at Two AM, there are a few dozen, but it is a big area, since there is no room taken up by restrooms, water fountains or vending machines.

We have established that the best plan is to start in the “wee, small hours”  between midnight and four AM.  By the time my day is done, the parking at truck stops and rest areas are mostly vacant.  This works well, but sometimes clashes with afternoon delivery appointments.

Below is a photo of a sandstone formation at a rest area somewhere in New Mexico. I know at least a few of my readers have a Geology background.  So, would one or the other please enlighten me as to how these rocks were weathered like this?

sandstoneweathering2

Above: Cubbyholes in the sandstone.

The second leg is to Albuquerque where I am directed to fuel up, but that is out of reach and Santa Rosa, New Mexico fits the bill for a Ten   A few hours out I begin noticing the outside rear tire on the trailer looks a little flat.  That is the furthest from the driver and it is supported by the other tire, so it’s hard to say.  But, I pull into the tire check lane and the Loves’ tire tech checks the pressure with a set of eighteen hoses that attach to all the tires at once.  Meanwhile, I put in just more than 50 gallons (qualifying for a shower credit) because the annoying red light and a dashboard message that won’t let me see my digital speedometer tell me that fuel is low.

Sure enough, that tire is at 29 pounds (should be 100).  Without the other tire in the dual, it would be flat as a pancake.  I wind up “in the shop”. The trailer is, anyway. The tractor is outside the shop  and far from the work zone where the tech is finding the leak, so it’s just one more parking place to me.  The usual truck stop routine is in force – eat, shower and sleep.  By the time the first two are done, the tech shows me the nail my tire picked up and I sign off and move the truck to normal parking (still with lots of vacancies) and sleep.

I did fuel up in Albuquerque .before dawn and there was a beautiful overlook of the city on the way out of the depot.  I tried to grab a couple of picture at the stop light, but both came out blurred.  I will look for another photography solution.  (Anybody with Go-Pro camera experience?  Please let me hear from you).  I was short-clocked by the 8 day rules to only 9 hours and change today (14th) and only made Williams, AZ instead of Kingman, which was the target.  I can still make the final on time, but it will be a three hour trip that morning instead of a half hour hop.  It pays to stay flexible and put the fat in the schedule at the end of the trip.

I passed the “divide” of Arizona at 7337 feet of altitude and wind picked up during the day.  Williams is West of Flagstaff and on the turn-off to the Grand Canyon.  This is a good example of the fallacy of the “see America” aspect of this job.  With the Grand Canyon mere miles away, I saw the truck stop.  The sky was tinted red with dust at sunset and the temperature was 48° F in the morning (September 15, 1 AM, local).

September 15, 2016  5 PM, Loves Truck Stop at Tulare, California

At the border, there is an inspection station.  They are more concerned with what I am carrying, not its weight.  I hand over the Bill of Lading (BOL) and tell the guy, it’s frozen chicken.  He says, “I know you guys carry either that that or frozen beef.  I tell him (briefly) about the frozen fish.  I don’t bring up bananas, since it might occur to him to look for fruit flies.  There is an old joke that goes, “Time flies like an arrow.  Fruit flies like a banana.”.  He wishes me a safe trip and I am back on the highway.

California is a ten percent pay cut, since the speed limit is everywhere 55 Mile per hour.  Not to worry, though because I can make up for it by driving more hours.  The cars can all go 70 still and they probably curse us in our trucks when there is no passing lane.  Hey, they  voted for the dufusses who made the speed limit!

My next fuel stop is programmed for Boron, CA.

Boron is a chemical element with symbol B and atomic number 5. Produced entirely by cosmic ray spallation and supernovaeand not by stellar nucleosynthesis, it is a low-abundance element in the Solar system and in the Earth’s crust.[12] Boron is concentrated on Earth by the water-solubility of its more common naturally occurring compounds, the borate minerals. These are mined industrially as evaporites, such as borax and kernite.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boron

That definition mentions in passing that Boron is made by exploding stars.  It is a little appreciated fact (except by Astronomy Degree holders – Guilty, Your Honor) that all elements except Hydrogen (and -according to some –  a small quantity of Helium , with a trace of Lithium) are manufactured by Nuclear Fusion.  So, a great deal of what makes up your body was once inside a Star, somewhat like the Sun.  Boron requires Stars that explode and fortunately for us, our Sun is too small for that.  So, Boron comes from other Stars or bombardment of cosmic rays – which is even weirder when you know where cosmic rays come from:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_ray

But I digress (like way!).  The town’s name comes from the local Borax Industry:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borax

You may remember the Brand Name “Twenty Mule Team Borax” which is mentioned in the above link.  However, unless you are Cretaceous, like myself, you won’t remember the 1950’s television series “Death Valley Days” that was sponsored by Twenty Mule Team Products and hosted by a very young actor in Western costume.  His name was Ronald Reagan.  More digression – but this time locally influenced.

I had called this truck stop from Arkansas two days ago, to ask if they could order replacements for my windshield wiper blades.  I had no luck finding the right parts in truck stops over many states.  The guy assured me they were in stock and I found them there.  As planned, I continued for three more hours to get here to Tulare.  This sets me up for a three hour drive to the Final in the morning.  I had some time left and could have driven to a rest stop 24 miles further on, but the prospect of a shower was too much to pass up.  Upon arriving, I realized that the last Loves shower credit – the one I earned in Santa Rosa – I had used up in Williams.  I still had “clock” and could have continued to the rest area.  But, it could be closed or over-crowded and that would force me back here anyway.  That scenario would have cost me an hour of drive time tomorrow (due to the eight-day problem) so I  stayed.  I know I promised to lay off the “drive clock” subject, but it keeps cropping up in the day-to-day events.

September 16, 2016, 7:20 AM PDT, Winco Distribution Center, Modesto, California

So far, I like this place.  They give you a map and directions and send you to pull-through (i.e., easy) parking to await your appointment.  Then off to a door and walk your papers into the office.  I have called the local Walmart Supercenter (about 5 miles away) and received permission to park while shopping.  After that, I will go to a nearby Pilot (16 miles – where I have 5 shower credits) and take a 34 hour break which will reset my 70 hour 8 day situation.  That should stop this running short on drive time.  I’m hoping this will set me up for a long trip, but there are no guarantees.

11:11 AM PDT

I have now completed all my paperwork for this trip, save the Lumper receipt which they will bring me when I am released.  I’ve also cleaned up my email inbox, replied to some messages and written this bit of prose for y’all.  The door light has been green for over an hour and still I have no clearance after three hours and 11 minutes from my appointment (for which I was timely).  Can you guess if “detention pay” is in force with this receiver?

Trip Complete. On to Wal-Mart

Over The Road,

Steve

Under Sail Once More – Westward Bound

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August 4, 2016 – Canton,  Texas  (Transplanted from WordPress page)

Despite the massive incompetence that passes for management in the Walmart distribution center in Johnstown in upstate New York, the gate guards and  receiving staff were most polite and helpful. It just goes to show you that places are often remembered for their least admirable details.  Another New York example of that phenomenon  is their Arrogant Senator, the lower case chuck schumer.

When finally it came, it had been a “live” unloading, which means that I hung around while they unloaded the trailer I had brought.  First, they assign you a door and hand you a pager.  You are then expected to back the trailer into the door and wait for the cargo to be unloaded.  There is a mechanical arm that grabs the bumper of your trailer, in addition to wheel chocks and the trailer brakes that prevent you from moving while the forklifts run in and out the trailer carrying pallets of meat.  These precautions were not apparently enough to assuage the misgivings of Safety, so we are required to disconnect the tractor from the trailer and a receiving foremen locks out the trailer air hose connector as well.  The subject of airbrakes could make an entire post and I’ll put that on the list.


Besides all that, there is a red light flashing by the door, visible in your driver-side mirror that prohibits you from moving anything.   When the light turns green, we ain’t done yet! You have to wait until the pager explodes with flashing blue neon lights and go to the receiving window to get the paperwork.  All this may take four or five hours.  Some shippers and receivers have no concern whatsoever for the fact that drivers are paid by the mile and sitting in a door is a zero mileage trip.

By contrast, the next load I delivered was to Golden State Foods in Garner, NC.  There, I was admitted within 10 minutes of arrival.  I had only to back the trailer into a cargo door (no  need even to open the trailer doors), disconnect from (drop) that trailer and hook up to the trailer in the next door…and leave.  The whole thing took less than an hour.  See, New York?

Fortunately, the next load was only 37 miles away.  Unfortunately, the appointment to pick up was the next morning at 1 PM.  However, they give themselves until 11 PM to actually come across with the load. twenty eight hours away in time.  You can bet that it will happen within a half hour of that last deadline.  Here at Clayton, NC,  they will waste your time, but they will also give you a place to park and wait, on site (unlike Walmart, NY).   I took that load of meat to Texas in two full days of travel totaling over 1100 miles.   Now I sit in a truck stop at Canton, Texas for about 18 hours, in order to arrive in Garland, Texas at the proper time tomorrow.  I could have stopped further out, but then I risk being late for some accident or traffic jam.  The Federal regulations and the company’s speed limits have made this job a game of “Hurry Up and Wait”.

The First Mate was in Dallas with youngest son for University “camp” and she drove out to see me.  We took some photos. 

Definition:  First Mate – an officer on a ship , second in rank only to the  Captain  and responsible for the security of both Captain and Vessel.

CaptainAtTheHelm

Above: The Captain at the Helm

FirstMateRelaxes2

 The First Mate

The Walkabout in Pictures  – Part II

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You will see the skyline of Chicago – a once mighty city – often referred to as the “Second City” because its population that was second only to New York.  

ChcagoSkylineCU“Second City” – soon to be Fourth.

Los Angeles passed up Chicago as “Second City” a while back,  Houston will pass it up as Third in the next census or soon after.  The “Windy City” (so named for its politicians, not its weather) is being abandoned as was Detroit.  Higher taxes, raging crime and corrupt politicians chased out businesses and taxpayers who could afford to leave.  The pols then raised taxes again to compensate and the spiral continues.  Illinois residents are furious with Chicago for breaking the State’s budget.  There was talk of abolishing the State of  Illinois and parcelling it out to the surrounding states.  I don’t have a dog in this hunt, but if I was – for example – an Indiana Resident, I’d tell my representatives, “No way you are going to pawn off Illinois debt on me!”

Driving in this city with an 18 wheeler is ain’t no picnic neither.  Anyone who says different is a masochist who loves to be abused.  The same goes for Los Angeles and New York.  Houston and Dallas are merely frustrating and confusing because the Jill, the Navigation Computer has no clue about recent construction and thinks you are on the surface streets when you are actually on the expanded freeway.  She keeps urging you  to turn left and take the on ramp – until out of desperation you move to the older left-hand lanes.  Then she will shut up and recognize the Interstate again. 

CropdusterCould be Texas or Kansas or Tennessee, for that matter.  Crop dusters are seen all over the farmland of America.  I suspect the pilots love their jobs since they can fly aerobatics all the time.  Your average airline pilots must envy them.

 My Uncle (father’s older brother) was a pilot for the duration of World War Two and Korea.  He started the first aerial crop dusting operation in Texas after that.  It had to be a great pleasure for him to maneuver like what you see here since he had flown great lumbering B-17’s in Europe and B-29’s in the Pacific theater.   There is a very good story about my Uncle flying Dad around in a piper cub.  Stay tuned.

GeologicaalMountainsMountains are a majestic presence that reduce the grim drudgery of driving to irrelevance.  They rise up out of the plains and grow slowly in the distance until, suddenly the near-infinite horizon has shortened into a winding, ascent through a labyrinth of rocky facades.

GeologyMassifShadowThe Earth rises around to blot out the sky.  Geology surrounds and penetrates the mood.  But while beauty dominates the view, the meandering highway demands respect – and vigilant attention.  The tranquil excursion across the plains is left far behind and a new paradigm – ever-changing in direction and elevation – absorbs the traveler’s reality.

 Geology_BlackCLudsSnowOut of thin air, an equally majestic skyscape. 

Cold fronts in Kansas are visible from many miles away, bisecting the sky.  North Texas produces some menacing dark, churning clouds that bring hail and threaten with funnel clouds.  I have some photos of that, but they evade detection.

weird-clouds-in-nebraska This image I titled “Weird Clouds in Nebraska”.

I know my readers are tired of hearing this:  As often happens, the photos do not do justice to the eye-witnessed scene.

Geology_FrozenReservoirA frozen reservoir.  But for that thin blue streak, ice and sky would be indistinguishable.  This is from a “scenic pull-out” and lucky for me, the “no trucks” sign did not appear.

Geology_MountainsSpiresUtah.  The “cap rocks” are harder than the underlying rock layers, which are gradually washed away in the rare showers or blown off by persistent winds to create these copious pillars.

Geology_Outcrop_TreesA ridge – from the road it looks like limestone –  harbors the only trees within the horizon. The phenomenon, when mostly vertical it is called a “dyke” and when horizontal, a “sill”.   I suspect it is also an aquifer that carries water to the surface – hence the trees.

 Geology_PrescottAZ

A detour in Arizona sent me through this corridor, near Prescott.  This straight-away was one of a very few.  There is an overwhelming abundance of scenic beauty to be seen in the Western half of America.

Geology_SaltFlatsSalt flats on the edges of the Great Salt Lake (in the distance).  In my few passes of this area, I don’t remember seeing GSL without clouds.  Whether Climate or Coincidence, I can’t say.

Geology_ThatHotelInWyomingOn emerging from a tunnel in Western Wyoming.  See how the architect has matched the colors to the landscape.  This is an especially compelling tableau in the glow of the full Moon. The light reflects vividly off the snow as to make a brighter than expected nocturnal landscape.

VOlcanoNecksWinterVolcano necks that resist weathering and wind up with sides so steep they won’t hold the snow.   The famous Devil’s Tower (featured in Close Encounters of the Third Kind) is found in Wyoming.  Alas, it is off the major truck routes.

 Hasta Luego,

Steve

An Ill Wind

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By Steve Campbell  October 15, 2017

“But it’s an ill wind blaws naebody gude.”  Rob Roy, Sir Walter Scott

A brief look behind the facade of wind-generated electricity.

In driving 130,000 miles in about 16 months, this reporter has seen windmills in States from California to New York, from Texas to Wyoming.  There were multiple passes by most of them.

PalmSpringsWindmill_Highway3Figure 1: Windmills Ransacking the Majestic Beauty of the Palm Springs Desert 

Photo Credit Steve Campbell 2017

No statistics were kept and only an intelligent guess can be made how often idle windmills were seen.  That number would be about 15%.  Add to that about 25% when the things are operating at noticeably quite slow – but steady – speeds.  A small but significant percentage (say 2%) of idleness was during near-gale-force wind conditions.  For example in Wyoming, when this driver  had to pull his empty trailer off of Interstate 80 to avoid a blow — over.  All the windmills passed while struggling to maintain my lane had been quite noticeably motionless.  And with good reason — they would otherwise tear themselves to pieces in the gusting, shifting winds.

And you can tack on another 5% when, in very low wind conditions when some mills are moving, some not and some barely creeping around.  That tells me that only the blades are turning — disconnected from the generators – and not one Watt of electricity is being produced.  I can only assume (but not prove) that this is a public relations ploy to make it seem like the taxpayers are getting something for all the subsidies.  Overall, my estimates were consistent with the researched usage number of 31% found in an article entitled “The True Cost of Wind Electricity” – by Planning Engineer and Bud Istvan [1]

There was also a months-long period when a field of an estimated one hundred completed windmills near Amarillo, Texas was seen (in repeated passes) to stand idle.  This happened even in steady wind conditions while another set of mills just down Interstate 40 were spinning along quite well.  You narrator puzzled over that for a long time.  Why would they not connect these machines up to the power grid as each was completed and thereby start generating a return on investment?  Everything happens for a reason.  But, any logic behind this idleness of hundreds of millions of dollars in capital assets escaped me.

The answer became obvious just recently in the same article cited above [1].

Warren Buffet wind farms are receiving $253 million of annual (Hey, People! – “Annual” means EVERY YEAR!) tax credit from “Iowa wind generation on an investment of $5.6 billion (2953 MW * 0.31CF * 8766 hr/year *$31.5/MWh). BH’s effective tax rate last year was 31%. Those wind credits are equivalent to earning (253/0.31) $816 million on his $5.6 billion wind investment — 15% return before any operating profit from selling electricity”

“….we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.  —  Warren Buffet””

The answer was that these windmills (Warren Buffet’s or not) had already generated a return on investment in the form of an annual tax credit   before a single kilowatt was produced.  So, schedule construction and receive the tax credit immediately.  Worry about power transmission capacity later.

Note that “Wind” as capitalized in this report refers to electric generation by that source.  Likewise, for Coal and Natural Gas

Big Wind is still trying to say that it is cheaper than Coal https://judithcurry.com/2015/05/12/true-costs-of-wind-electricity/[1].

To summarize how they try to maintain this fiction:

Including tax credits and incentives as income that will continue indefinitely

Assuming a much longer lifetime for windmills than actually exists.

Including a nonexistent “carbon tax” (it was not passed) applying to Coal and Natural Gas.

Assuming an unrealistically high usage rate. (35-38 % instead of 31%)

Payments to Wind utilities for generation that they could have done, but did not because of low demand.

But, they still can’t manage to make up enough excuses to say they can compete with Natural Gas.

Just in Terms of Raw Materials, Wind Loses (Big Time) to Natural Gas

Wind uses 153 times as much steel per unit energy generated and 32 times as much concrete [Green Energy Revolution Folly].  Do the numbers cited by Big Wind include the cost in labor and “carbon” in the fossil energy used to production of those resources?  Greens are very quick to say “leave it in the ground” when it comes to Petroleum or Coal.  Wind uses grotesquely large amounts of steel and concrete for the amount of energy produced.  News for Greens: Both of those also come out of the ground!  And they are mined, refined and transported by Petroleum and Coal!

 

Bird and Bat Carnage

The Spanish Ornithological Society (birdwatchers) reviewed actual carcass counts   in 136 monitoring studies (2012).  Those results indicate that Spain’s 18,000 windmills are killing six to ten million birds and bats* per year. Swedish and German studies confirm that. [3]

I have extrapolated to the updated (2016) DOE statistics.  The 77,000 wind turbines currently operating in the US may be responsible for 27 to 42 million birds and bats killed per year.  — SC

ExxonMobil was cited in 2009 for killing 85 birds in facilities in five states [4].  The fines assessed were over seven thousand dollars per bird.  Applying the same rate of penalty to the Wind Industry will bankrupt it.  But, not to worry, the Obama administration gave Wind a thirty year “get-out-of-jail-free card”.  No fines will be forthcoming.  So much for equal justice.  ExxonMobil spent a few million and made some changes to stop killing birds.  The only change Wind can make is to stop the turbines.

Bird and bat kill estimates from the Wind Industry are much smaller and for several obvious reasons.  The “kill radius” is still considered 200 feet, despite the fact that they are makng bigger and bigger turbines that throw the dead and wounded animals outside that radius.  Surveys of carnage take place only once every 30-90 days while scavengers destroy the evidence.  Wounded animals are not counted.  And now, the bird mortality rates (and presumably that of bats as well) are considered the property of the windfarm owners – not public domain[3].

WindmillBladeCompositeFigure 2: Windmills have now reached a size limit imposed by transportation considerations.  This blade 116 feet long – over twice as long as a standard semi-trailer. It is just barely possible to move these on any roads other than rural Interstates.  A composite was made because it would not fit in the camera’s field of view.  Photo Credit Steve Campbell 2017

WIndmillBIrdstrike

Figure 3:  A red kite (Spanish cousin of the eagle) is down hard.

Photo courtesy  of www.gurelur.org and www.SaveTheEaglesInternational.org

Falsely Accused

Greens will point to domestic cats as being “far worse” killers of birds.  They gloss over the fact that – to make a local example – my tuxedo cat has brought me a few (very common and prolific) mocking birds and once a blue jay, but he never dragged an eagle carcass up to my back door. He’s never come up with a bat either, despite the fact that they hang out (no pun) around here.

Back CameraFig, 4.  I’m not guilty, I tell you!  Get those cameras out of here!

*Just to be clear: You may not like bats, but they eat the insects that would otherwise consume agricultural yields.  That includes non-food crops like cotton and so-called “Green crops” like corn for ethanol.  In fact, some farmers cultivate bat colonies for that very reason.

Conclusions

Wind power is not economically feasible without taxpayer subsidies.  Any pretense otherwise is disingenuous in the extreme.  Or would you call Warren Buffet a liar?

Wind uses an excess of construction resources compared on a per-energy-unit basis to other forms of generation.  Those resources are mined, processed and transported with “fossil fuels”.  Nothing is wrong with Petroleum or Coal in my opinion, but the whole excuse for Wind power was to avoid fossil fuels.  They have “missed the mark”.

The turbines kill substantial amounts of large, protected birds and bats as well. No remediation is forthcoming and no fines (a la ExxonMobil) will be assessed.

Is this really the way we want to generate electricity?

 

Author Credit

Steve Campbell is a Geophysicist (a Genuine Scientist) and has studied this stuff for decades.  Read his articles and contact him at Goingwalkabout.blog.

0. Ill Wind: https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/ill-wind.html

  1. Engineer and Istvan – The True Cost of Wind Energy: https://judithcurry.com/2015/05/12/true-costs-of-wind-electricity/
  2. Jeff Ausubel – Green Energy Revolution Folly:

http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2016/09/green_energy_revolution_folly.html#ixzz4KieMhSUU

  1. Save the Eagles International (Bird and Bat Carnage):

http://savetheeaglesinternational.org/new/us-windfarms-kill-10-20-times-more-than-previously-thought.html

 

  1. Department of Justice: (ExxonMobil fines): https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/exxon-mobil-pleads-guilty-killing-migratory-birds-five-states

 

Having Left the Highway

SteveTrucker2  Homepage   DreamVacations

In the 16 months I spent “Over the Road” there were more than a few trucks that left that road to be seen along the way.  I managed to photograph only a few.

Wisconsin

This victim had to be in Wisconsin.  I say that because of the red barn.  

Wreck_WisconsinYou see that the axles are separated singles, not tandems.  That is generally to meet bridge weight limits on secondary roads.

WIBARNMONTAGE.png

The Crimson Cowsheds are so common in Wisconsin that I made a montage of same.  You will note the renegade blue barn at lower right.

Wyoming

This one was on I-80, east of Cheyenne.  It was probably not a blow over – unless perhaps from the  afternoon before.  The weather was calm when I passed – as it tends to be in the morning. 

Wreck_WY

On a later trip through Wyoming, I was called from Cheyenne to swap out with another driver at Rowling.  The trip started badly with the trailer being blown around with ever-increasing intensity. The wind was picking up quickly and the weather radio was talking about 45 mph gusts at Rowling.  I noticed all the windmills were locked down, motionless and the programable warning signs had the message “Extreme Blow Over Risk”.  I finally had to put myself and my empty trailer on weather standby when I could not maintain my lane. There was plenty of company at the parking pull-out that exists for just such occasions.  It was there that I noticed that my passenger-side neighbor had a cat in his cab.

CatInATruck

Many drivers have their “mascots” but 99% are dogs.  Over-the-Road life gets surreally solitary.  I could put up with it because I am a loner by nature and writing kept me sane – well…almost.

.CatInABoxMy wife offered me the “middle cat”, Pepper, who likes to get in the car.  But, I could not imagine walking a cat around a truck stop on a leash for “ablutions” – especially this particular cat.

    I had the distinct feeling that this swap was with another sane driver who pulled off in Rowling with a full trailer to avoid the same windstorm.  While I waited for dusk and the calm that usually comes then, the gusts increased to 65 mph.  When finally I could roll – without rolling over – the swap had been cancelled.  I was sent instead to Nebraska for a load that I would pull right back across Wyoming the next day.

    That day the warnings were less extreme (just “Blow Over Risk” – no extremities).  My full load kept me grounded, but even so, there were two rigs on their sides by the road.  Neither had seals or locks on their back doors – a sure sign they were both empty. 

WreckWY_BackUpThis is the second one over by the Utah border.  It had been put back on to its wheels (although still listing precipitously to the right) by a heavy duty wrecker that was just hooking up to tow it away. 

Tennessee

 Blow Over is not the only risk.  In crossing Tennessee (the short way), this scene appeared 

TennesseeConflagrationCrop

The trucks in the foreground had no doubt stopped to help.  Every rig has at least one fire extinguisher.  It looks like a Schneider (orange) box van on fire. 

TenesseeConflagClose

As I passed, the rise in the median intervened and little but smoke and flames were visible.

Oklahoma

Overturned (3) 

This Volvo with its flatbed was the worst accident I managed to photograph.  It had apparently crossed opposing traffic and rolled completely over on its cargo.  The cab was crushed and I could not see how a driver might have survived this. 

Dallas

WreckAtPurgatoryThis was all that was left of one of those Black Company tractors.  I am not ever sure of the make.  They brought it back to Purgatory to use as a visual aid in Safety Class.  All the students were marched out past this and lectured by an instructor as a part of a cautionary tale.

The driver had been “facetiming” with his girlfriend when he blundered into a family in a rented motor home.  Ironically, they had been taking it easy in the slow lane for safety.  Both the tractor and the motor home burned to the ground.  Incredibly, no one was killed or injured.

About the time of the 35th anniversary of said Company, there was a commemorative trailer painted with celebratory murals brought around to this “gathering point” and the poor burnt-to-a-crisp tractor was relegated to a back lot where it would not dampen the spirit.

Hasta Luego,

Steve

Hydraulic Fracturing: A YouTube Video

SteveTrucker2  Homepage   DreamVacations

As you may be aware, I have been studying both “Climate Change” and Energy Policy for decades.  I know what I am talking about!  I made a YouTube video about 5 years ago about Hydraulic Fracturing that slaps down the slander of the “Greenies” about the subject in no uncertain terms*.

*I don’t want to seem arrogant here so I will quote Walter Brennan from a late 60’s TV show called “The Guns of Will Sonnet” and say, “No brag – just fact!”

It may interest you to know that the “rough” quality of Walter Brennan’s voice was the result of his service in World War I when he was exposed to Mustard Gas.

Hasta Luego,

Steve

 

The Walkabout in Photographs – Part One

SteveTrucker2  Homepage   DreamVacations

I have a thousand photos that I have never published.  Now that I am between Walkabouts, I shall find the best of these to entertain you, my Loyal Readers- until the Next Great Adventure comes along.

12946

One of the Kenworths that, I (Your Humble Narrator (YHN)) drove.  I remembered the license plate number this way:  Starts with “R” then twice 7 (14) then 10 times 7 (70), then 7 squared (49).  The heater failed as often as it worked through the Northern Winter of 16/17.  I was “snowed-in” in this vehicle in Ontario, Oregon for a full day and a half.

Once, the “fifth wheel” was jammed in place and I darn near killed myself when I was trying to move it back by locking the trailer brakes, racing the engine and popping the clutch.  The thing let go all at once and Captain Careless did not have his seatbelt on.  Luckily, my head intercepted the “overhead” and not the windshield.

IMG_1670.JPGThe office room in the Captains Suite.  You see that the sunshade has a convenient cut-out meant for a rearview mirror where the 1984 Big-Brother Camera could still see Winston Smith (YHN).  The smaller video screen is Jill, the Navigation Computer.  She secretly wanted to lock me out and say “I’m sorry, Steve, but I cannot open the pod bay doors.”  That’s why I always carried a spare key on a lanyard around my neck.

IMG_1694Sunrises and sunsets were frequently awe-inspiring.  Never did photos do them justice, try as I might.  This one came close.  What looks like a light pole with spiral cables is actually one of two antennas for the satellite Navigation system.  You will see it “in context” about 3 photos below.

IMG_1688The Parking Problem – this sort of back-up into (and leaving) a rest area was a constant throughout the Eastern half of the US.  Large Western Cities are joining in the misery. All the trucks you see here could be ticketed for illegal parking, but these drivers had no choice but to stop. The Freight companies drive them near the clock and they must stop the truck or face massive fines.

IMG_1727These large bird/bat choppers were a constant sight along the highways.  Rare was the time I saw them turning at anything like a rapid rate.  When the winds got really strong, they were locked down motionless.  This wind power boondoggle has cost the country immensely in subsidies, excessively high utility rates and grotesquely excessive amounts of steel and concrete compared on a per-energy-unit basis to cheap, reliable, efficient, CLEAN natural gas, nuclear and coal.  If you disagree, then you need to do a bit of research, as I have done for 25 years.

rearviewredlight.jpg

The view of that red light that means your truck is still an unpaid slave of the Distribution Center.  This one came up blank a few times and I had to try again.  It dawned on me that it was blinking – DOH!  When finally the green light shows, you may be only a few hours away from actually getting back on the road and actually earning money -albeit a pittance.

 IMG_1733.JPG

This is in one of the Travel Plazas that populate The Ohio Turnpike.  They actually have free showers.  Yes, it is “bring your own everything.” But, as a long-time swimmer and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fan, I have always my beach towel.

IMG_1832.JPGThere was a constantly-changing tableau of scenery that passed before me.  I think this is in Middle California, near the coast.  It is blessed with an absence of windmills. The hilly relief is impressive enough to warrant a photo-attempt.  Again, the majesty of it all may be lost in the recording.

 

IMG_1830.JPGCalifornia, again.  This was before the torrential rains that broke the drought in Middle California.  I have some later photos of this area that show “Irish Green” qualities.  Much of what here seems to be bald grassland is actually exposed lake-bottom.  Those who blamed “Global Warming” for a “Permanent Drought” never did retract those accusations when the rains returned.  The truth is that both California and the entire Southwest are subject to decades-long cycles of drought and flood.  Anyone who tells you different is either ignorant or disingenuous.

SandstoneWeatheringRestArea.jpgAlong Interstate 40, near Winslow, in Arizona is this excellent example of weathering of a sandstone outcrop.  I was a Geology Major for a semester, mostly because of interesting things like this.  I will admit that I am afflicted with Geek-Trivia-Nerd Syndrome (GTNS).  That admission does nothing to cure or treat the condition and that’s OK.  I am not looking for any absolution.  I am completely at peace with my interest, fascination and obsession with the details of the Universe that surrounds me.

IMG_1891.JPG 

Here is a view from the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) bus.  While “in port”  at “Purgatory”, I was able to get away, by means of the bus and local light-rail system and once managed to visit my son at his college dormitory.  It is consistent with my (GTNS) personality that I actually enjoy such mass-transit excursions.  

 

Hasta Luego,

Steve