Fool Me Once…

SteveTrucker2
Sign123_Lone

From the old WordPress site…

Aberdeen, Maryland

August 16, 2016

The 25 hour lay-over completed, I drove to the final delivery, checked in for a door and backed in to be unloaded.  This was a well-laid-out docking area that had widely spaced doors and a long run-out in front of mine.  That did not stop a fellow trucker from parking across my long run-out to make it another high-angle parking situation.  So, again the ordeal of maneuvering the trailer backwards into a gap.  This time the gap was a bit bigger, though.  And, I seem to be getting better at this.

I thought of how to explain this and came up with the following analogy:

ParkingDiagram

Line up two dominoes with a gap between them that will fit a third domino with a small gap on either side. See the diagram above.

Once you have the “Start” laid out, put one hand in your pocket, then push on the center of the end of the third domino where you see the red diamond shape.  No fair pushing on the corners!  Now push that third domino until you have the “End”  configuration.  If the moving domino touches the others, you lose.  It would, of course be much easier if your moving domino were lined up – parallel and straight in front of the gap.  That is what I mean by “long run-out”.   Imagine doing this exercise with three hundred-thousand dollar vehicles (more with cargo), looking back at the trailer through the driver’s window and in mirrors. This from70 feet away.

I have to do that about once every two or three days.

Anyway, I got to the receiver, sent that status to the company and backed in to be unloaded.  They unload the trailer by driving a heavy forklift into it and picking up a multi-ton stack of cargo and exiting.  They do this hundreds of times a day and have gotten very fast at it.  The result is an earthquake-like shaking in the cab for an hour or two. But, in the meantime the long-awaited message will come that will tell me to pick up a load and take it to Texas and home.

Only, the message says go pick up a load and take it to Illinois – delivering on the second day of my pre-planned and approved home time (only Illinois ain’t my home). I put in for this break over a month ago and while I was in Purgatory (not the ski resort) they asked again and I requested the same and they approved it again.  Must be a mistake, right?

I call.

“Well,” they say,. “It will be easy to get you a load out of Illinois to Texas”.

If you read my previous post, you know that I have just come from Chicago.

That’s in Illinois.

I went there from Maryland because they said it would be easy to route me home from there.  Then they said, they had nothing from there and I could get a load home from Maryland.  So, I went to Maryland.

Somebody is being less than honest with me.

The load assignment has an acceptance auto-reply where I answer “yes” to the assignment and have an option to comment.  I answered “NO” and commented the story I just told you.  Some severe editing was needed to get that into the two line comment field. Then I went looking for a place to park.  But, this too shall pass and what else could go wrong?

Severe Thunderstorms.

Parking for big trucks is a critical problem in this part of the country, as my previous post mentioned.  There was a truck stop, nearby and it was one of those where you pay to park, but “any port in a storm”, as they say.  There was not one space left open.  I left.  The first two hours in this place are free (and darned well worth every penny, as it turns out) so, I didn’t have to pay to be turned away.  I drove toward the nearest stop I could find on the “apps” which is fifty miles away.  There is no real hope that they will have space, but what else can I do?

Along the route (North on Interstate 95), there is a rest stop with truck parking, fuel and a big food court called Maryland House.  I’ve been there before.  It is hidden from the road and requires a left exit where the left lane is forbidden to trucks. Truckers often take their 30 minute breaks at places like this, so there was a chance I could find a recently-vacated space.  I did and I am there now.

It is four AM and there is still no word on my load home.  I will probably be denied my home break.  But, it will be denied by a human being on the phone – not by anonymous satellite message.  There are certain levels of decency that I expect out of life and this is one of them.

Then, I’ll go back to Illinois.  But I will remember this shabby treatment for a good long while.

Barrel Racer Mystery

September 3, 2016 (Transplanted from my old WordPress site)  

Homepage   

The rig is parked in another gigantic lot, but this one is 90% vacant.  All of the spaces are “pull throughs”, i.e.,  no backing involved.  Many Thanks for this much needed relief!  This is a “Service Plaza” on Ohio’s Turnpike which is really Interstate 80.  I don’t know how the state got the right to put toll booths on a Federally funded Interstate, but they have spared no expense on these installations.  Besides the ample and easy parking for cars and trucks alike, there is a well-appointed building with restrooms, a food court some shops and a trucker’s area with showers, laundromat and TV lounge.

img_1732
Above:  The Ohio Turnpike Service Plaza Building
Above: Inside the Service Plaza

It has been two days of over ten hours of driving and there is another ten to go before my first of two stops in Massachusetts.  I will split this ten with a ten hour break in the middle.  It is a bit complicated, but given the time of the appointment for deliver and the distance involved, there are ten hours of driving and ten hours of mandatory off-duty between now and then no matter what.  I can drive straight to the receiver and hope there is a place to hide an 80 foot truck for 10 hours or stop in the middle, probably at the fuel stop.  That way, I can arrive, on time at the receiver and drive away when through. It will be a very close thing and I have asked for another hour or two on the appointment.

Just when I am about to give up and stay in a roadside park when word comes that there is on-site parking at the receiver.  I won’t be turned away for being early and be forced creep the streets illegally looking for a place to park.  So, now I can drive straight in and stay until my appointment at 5 AM.  That went well overall, but at the very end, Jill the Navigation voice told me “turn right” where I saw nothing but darkness.  Immediately she added, “Not allowed.  Return to the route behind you.”  It is an ineffective and singularly useless thing to say to a man driving a truck on a narrow country road, with no shoulders to speak of and nothing but narrow residential driveways and tiny commercial parking lots on both sides.  The usual defense of pressing Jill’s Re-route button made her say “Communications Failure”.  In other words, “You’re on your own, Sucker!”

No, I must drive ever onward as my time runs down to the tens of minutes, desperately searching for an area big enough to allow the turning radius I need.  Think of a football field.  If I go straight across on the Fifty yard line, I can turn and come back on the Twenty.  And there I was driving blindly into the night with no idea what I would encounter.  Finally I found a small motel on a corner lot with very few guests.  There was an entrance on both the highway and the cross street.  By using every inch of pavement on the cross street, the highway and the parking lot, I managed to reverse direction.

Jill came back to consciousness and showed me the distance to the turn-off.  The sign on the road was low and unlit, but visible from this direction.  The gate guard  seemed to know the motel I mentioned.  In my experience so far,  Shipping, Receiving and Warehouse staff are polite and helpful people.  The gate guard at this place was exactly that, explaining where I needed to be an when.  He even had a number for pizza delivery straight to the truck.  I had previous plans for peanut butter sandwiches.

At 6:30 the call comes to find a door and be unloaded.  They finish  around 8 and bring me the paperwork.  Part if this was written while I was “hiding” over in the parking area after closing up and sealing the load for the next stop..  I didn’t need to stay, but I have nowhere to be.  I have drive time, but it is limited by the 8 day regulations to 7 hours and 11 minutes.  The next stop is 3 hours from here.  I don’t know if I can go hang out there until my appointment at 7 AM tomorrow.  I transmitted the completion message for this stop and assembled the paperwork for this trip so far.

I looked up a Pilot truck stop (they have an iPhone App) near the final and drove there, saving a couple of hours tomorrow morning.  It was at I 95 exit 40 in Connecticut. Why Pilot?  Because that is where the company has us fuel up and that is where I get a shower credit for each 50 gallons.  I have six left and they expire after ten days, so it behooves me to use them.  I just found a receipt from Loves (the competition) and it says I have 4 showers there.  Those expire as well so perhaps I had better double up on showers.  But, Loves doesn’t seem to have any locations nearby.

This trip I spent two nights at rest stops and missed my chance at a shower.  This particular Pilot is an addition to a general travel shop in what looks like it used to be a hotel.  There is a saddle and some photos of a young barrel-racing cowgirl and her horses on display on the staircase landing.  I can only guess at the story behind this exhibit. Was she the daughter of the hoteliers back in the 60’s?  This is obviously a sentimental shrine to the racer and her horses.  Perhaps she is the elderly owner of the travel stop, these days?

saddleblanketbarrelracer
Above:  This is the display of memorabilia from a young lady’s barrel racing career.

The showers have beautiful pedestal sinks from the 1950’s and ugly rusty metal folding chairs from the 1960’s. The driver’s lounge seems to be a coin-operated pool table and what is labeled a “Theater Room”.  It really is an old-style private theater that might have screened projected movies for VIPs at one time, long ago.  I couldn’t manage to make the camera flash to get a good photo of this darkened studio    The parking lot is off behind the fueling bays and you would not know it was there if not for the signs that point it out and threaten to tow your rig if you park by the fuel island.

All these spaces are accompanied by ancient fixtures with ductwork, built on massive concrete bases.  These were evidently, life support system for trucks in the old days when it was idle your engine or freeze to death in the winter.  These would be necessary in such a setting a half-century ago.  Imagine a capacity crowd of 80 such trucks all gathered in a spot like this and idling  You younger folks, who never knew a world before emission controls on automobiles, cannot imagine what a dismal cloud of unburned hydrocarbons would “surround and penetrate you” in such a scenario. The more ancient of us can see why these things were needed, at the time. As seen in the photo, this one has a history of “incidental contact” that may date back decades.  Most trucks have Auxiliary power units (APU’s) these days. These are clean-running small diesel generators that keep power and heat/AC in the sleepers.

Ancient fixture for big-rig life support

I had three days of decent wages on the Kansas – Massachusetts run.  Each day was about 580 miles.  But there was a twenty four hour wait at the Shipper – common with meat plants,  Also, the double destinations at the Receivers adds another full day of minimal pay.  Today I got unloaded at the first stop and drove about 150 miles.  Oh, and I got $25 for the extra drop (Ka-Ching!*).

*Sarcasm

Tomorrow, I will drive about 60 miles to the last stop and then deadhead 90 miles to the next assignment.

There is a new trip on the horizon for which I only have places and times, so far.  It looks like I will be hauling candy from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania.  This is a short (500 miles) trip spread over three days.  Despite the short mileage, it sounds interesting.

Now, my phone is dead.  I expect it is the cable, because I have replaced same three times now since I have had this iPhone.  They cost about $25 and seem to last just a few months under heavy usage.  Without my phone  cannot use the Apps to find a truck stops at which to buy a new (and overpriced) cable.  I do have the address of the next pick-up.  So, there I will set off that way and see what I stumble across.  I can see that I need a back-up for the iPhone. I have become dependent upon it. Technology has its consequences.

A Brief Fathers’ Day Recollection

   Steve Carroll Campbell was my father.  He was born in January of 1930 near New Boston, Texas.  When he was about ten years old, he suffered from a degenerative bone disease that so attacked his right lower leg that local doctors were ready to amputate.   His father, Louis D. Campbell, took him to Texarkana where there was a Shriner’s Children’s Hospital. The family legend is that his stretcher rode on the back of a flat-bed truck.

 The doctors there tried something desperate.  They carved bone out of a live goat and transplanted (grafted, I suppose) it in the appropriate place in this poor boy’s diseased limb.  A desperate gamble indeed since it was – as far as I know – unprecedented.  But there was nothing to lose – except, of course, the boy’s leg.     

   He walked on crutches for over a year, this tragic figure of a child, until his leg was strong enough to take his full weight.  The leg, though smaller in diameter and severely scarred, it was the roughly the same length as his left and quite capable.  Unless you saw him in shorts, you would never know that anything had ever been amiss.

   You may be old enough to remember when Shriners took one day a year to stand on street corners and collect donations for their charities like that Texarkana Hospital.  As an adult, as often as he was able, my father would scrape together a hundred dollars to buy a crisp, new $100 bill. He would find a Shriner collecting and drop the bill in the little bucket, anonymously.  In those days, a hundred dollars might have been a full week’s pay with which Dad could ill afford to part. 

My father was uprooted from Bowie County and moved to Houston – with his mother and younger brother – in his high school years.  While his mother worked long shifts as an LVN in a maternity ward, he worked as a merchant sailor and later as a letter carrier (on foot – told you that leg was strong!)

   Dad refused to allow me to be a “Junior” because his middle name (it sounds exactly like “Carol”, a girl’s name) was a source of ridicule for him by mean-spirited classmates.  Blake is my middle name and I do not know where it came from.  It is possible that my Uncle Mark (Dad’s brother-in-law) may know.  I’ll ask.

   As far as I am concerned, Carroll is a perfectly acceptable man’s name and I can quote two examples you may have heard of : Carroll O’Connor, the actor famous for portraying Archie Bunker and Carroll Shelby, the automobile designer and racer famous for the Shelby Cobra and other cars.

http://www.carrollshelby.com/

   Shelby was also from Texas, by the way.  While I think Dad’s precaution was overly protective, I recognize that he did it because he loved me and wanted the best for me.

   Dad eventually settled into a career in the glass sales business.  It was he who trained me to clean glass properly.  It takes clean paper towels, two of them.  The first, “the wet one”, is used with a light amount of cleaner to emulsify the spots and loosen dirt.  The second, “the dry one” mops up the streaks left by the first.  Soon, you toss the wet one.  Then the dry one becomes the wet one and you get a new dry one.  To clean windows, the proper way is to use two people, one on each side.  That way if you rub vigorously but can’t get the spot out, you can point it out to your partner since it must be on his side. 

   This “pointing out your partner’s flaws” is much quicker than a single cleaner going from one side to the other – especially on house windows far from the doors – as you know if you have tried it.  These days, I have a truck windshield that I struggle to keep clean of all the bugs that dive like Kamikazes and spatter directly in my forward view.  I always remember my Dad when I clean the windshield and I do the best job I can, in his memory. (This part written while “over-the-road”)

   When I clean the mirrors, I remember Dad’s team method for windows and if there is a spot I can’t tackle, I say, “Hey Dad, that one must be on your side!”.  He looks back with a smile and calls me a “smarty-pants” (or something similar 😉).  He looks a lot like me, these days.

    For most of his life, Dad fought a smoking habit established at a young age.  That and a lung disease that was associated with poultry farming deteriorated his health until he was on continuous oxygen in his early 60’s.  He died on June 30th, 1997 (age 67) of respiratory arrest – he wanted to breathe, but could not.  It has been almost 22 years now that he has been gone.  I miss him terribly to this day.

Happy Fathers’ Day,

Steve

Escaping Newark

stevetrucker2
Sign123

October 6, 2016 (from the WordPress site)

The truck parking situation in the Northeast is now critical.  I am still avoiding much of the whole mess by traveling when most are sleeping and vice versa.  When I leave truck stops or even roadside parks, the mass of trucks is astounding.  They are parked not just in every space, but also in every space that is not a space.  They line the driveways and side streets and even the off ramps from and onramps to the Interstate.  The rest areas are so overflowing that I sometimes have to hop the trailer tires over a curb to get out to the road.  From there, it is smooth sailing because…why?  That’s right – most all the other trucks are off the road!  By the time I am ready for a break it is about six or seven in the morning and there are spaces left by the early risers who have departed.  Sometimes I can roll past the still sleeping trucks lining the on-ramps, avoid the side-liners in the driveway and find a nice vacant pull-through in the main parking lot at those hours.

If parking is crowded at a fuel stop, I can log my fuel stop for the first 10 minutes then go on “break” while I top off the reefer and add DEF (explained later). After that, I must pull forward if there is a truck behind me, but I can still buy some wiper fluid or oil, find the bathroom, get a cup of coffee, etc.  If by that time I don’t have the required 30 minutes, I will watch the mirrors while the guy behind me stalls around for the same reason.  If he gets through fueling, I have to move, but mostly, I manage to kill the 30 and drive on.  Jill stops saying “you have one hour and seven minutes of remaining drive time” to saying “you have four hours and 35 minutes of remaining drive time. The difference would be only three hours but she holds up your on-duty time (fueling, inspections, time at shippers or receivers) until you break, as well.

When I settle for the “night” it is about two or three in the afternoon.  Empty truck stop spaces abound.  Some rest areas are vacant except for my truck and two or three others.  All those empties and far, far more will be occupied when I leave again.  I have some photos of this phenomenon.

img_1926

Above:  Trucks parked on the Interstate ramp that leads to a rest area.  I see these by the hundreds on any given “midnight run”.  The law says you have to stop driving and park the truck after 11 hours of accumulated driving.  At times, there is no good choice for that location. The parking situation is critical in the Northeast and getting worse.  I avoid it – for the most part – by my “graveyard shift” driving hours.  By the way, notice the cool “spacecraft-like” appearance of my instrument panel

restareacongestion1

Above: This phenomenon is not limited to nighttime hours.  This is not long after dawn.

img_1695

Above:  Except for the truck in the fuel line (far right), all of those vehicles are in a “no parking” zone.  Nobody kicks them out because they have little choice.  The drivers will all quickly move their trucks when awakened if they block somebody in.  Those blocked in apologize for awakening them and are quite understanding in a “there but for the Grace of God go I” sort of way.  Ninety-nine percent of truck drivers are polite, thoughtful and helpful individuals.

Newark is a lot like a truck stop in the middle of the night.  There is no extra room to be found.  When there might be some, they start a construction area there.  This applies to warehouse areas and streets in industrial zones.  Where in small towns there are wide open spaces surrounding industrial zones, Newark has shops and houses that border them.  I went down a narrow residential streets to get to the new home for the half-million-dollars-worth of beef.  I had parked on the street to walk my papers to the guard to check in.  I parked right by a fire plug – see photo below

IMG_1930.JPG

Above:  I reckon I could talk my way out of this ticket.

They had a vendor parking area that was basically a trailer junk yard with a little extra space. Paved with gravel and diesel oil in a black organic ooze that gets tracked into the truck.  Driving out in the morning, Jill, the Virtual Navigation Girl told me to turn where rigs were parked on both sides, take narrow streets where cars lined the edges, use closed entrance ramps.  Nobody had told her about construction areas or detours.  I wore out my touch-screen finger pressing the “re-route” button.  I was hopping curbs and making sign-language pleas for cars to back up and let me avoid taking out road  signs on the corners.  I went around in circles until I finally worked up an escape velocity and left the orbit of Newark.  (…with apologies to Douglas Adams)

Not far out of town, I picked up a load of plastic bags to take to North Carolina.  This was at another of those obstacle-course yards where I had to back blind-side into a space with a fence in front making life difficult.

img_1932

Above:  The offending fence.  Its demise predated my arrival, but I rejoiced in its horizontality nevertheless.  The text at the top of the windshield lists truck stops and rest areas along the planned route.  Don’t worry – it’s dry-erase

I had to scale this load and found a Loves truck stop.  It was easily accessed by making an illegal right turn.  The scale was behind a powerline tower, necessitating a wait in the fuel line, then a diagonal approach to where I could wait for that one driver in a hundred who will leave his truck on the scale while he goes in to get his ticket.  The obstructed approach left me with one trailer wheel off the scale.  While I tried to pull up and back the trailer on to the scale, another one-in-a-hundred driver started pulling on to the scale behind me, thinking (being charitable, there;-) that I was through.  So, I gave it up and went back to the Interstate to the next windshield-noted stop.  It is possible to leave problems behind, occasionally.

While driving through Maryland, Jill told me about a new important message.  She won’t let me read these while I drive.  She does read them to me spontaneously, from time to time.  I sure would like to find out how that happens so I could ask that on demand – but I don’t know.  At a State-border weight checkpoint I stopped in the line long enough to read “Stop where you are! Call me when stopped.”  This panic-inspiring instruction is easier said than done.  The scale screen told me to exit to the Interstate, so I couldn’t stop there.  After 10 miles of no rest stops or obvious truck stops, I exited anyway and looked for big parking lots.  This happened to be a stretch of road with massive construction along both sides of ten more miles that left me no turns and no parking lots.  The road dead-ends into a checkpoint for the Aberdeen Proving Ground –  a Serious and Secure Army Installation.  They would not even let me on to their website to research them for this post, because I was using a WiFi connection.  The link below is Wikipedia.

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

It took some explaining about how I was not here to deliver, but was a lost soul looking to turn around and go the other way without being fired.  They finally stopped traffic to let me make a (LEGAL and Company Acceptable) U-turn.

Finally, I found a Target and wove my way through the customer lot, only hopping one curb.  I found my required eight parking places (and the here-to-for-hidden easy back way in) beside the building and called in to find out that the load was to be delayed a week!

Now, I was to drag my trailer to a shop of the refrigeration unit manufacturer in Carlisle, PA (it has a lingering problem)  and drop it, pick up an empty and go to Lemoyne, Pennsylvania to pick up a load of “Freight, all kinds” and take it to Temple, Texas.  Before I left the yard in Carlisle, that load was cancelled and I was assigned to go to Howard, PA, pick up a Coca-Cola load and take it to Minnesota.

This sets my record for number of different destinations in one day.  The day was not over yet, but it ended before another destination could be flown in.

On the morning of the next day, I was reminded of the classic comedy routine by Abbot and Costello. Who’s on First?

  1. I show up at the shipper. He wants my empty trailer and I want a full one.
  2. I open the doors of the empty trailer and put it in a loading door. There, I drop it (uncouple  and drive the tractor away).
  3. I “hook” loaded trailer, i.e., I connect it to my tractor.
  4. I take it for inspection by the shipper.  We find out I have no load locks – extendable aluminum bars that keeps cargo from shifting.  At least one is required to be installed on the load before they seal it and I get my paperwork. My last two locks were in the previous load that I dropped yesterday. It is sealed, so I could not get them back.
  5. So, I drop loaded trailer and bobtail (verb – to drive a tractor-trailer truck with no trailer) to truck stop to buy load locks.
  6. I return to shipper and hook the loaded trailer again.
  7. I drag loaded trailer to the truck stop to scale load. It is heavy on the front, like all Coca-Cola loads.
  8. I shift trailer axles to balance load.
  9. The meat lock (a giant hasp and padlock that locks the trailer’s cargo bay – but good!) is installed.
  10. I go through the “Countdown” to depart. Meds, water, coffee, windshield, pre-trip inspection and so on.
  11. The Countdown is interrupted by message from the Company that Coca-Cola doesn’t like my empty trailer. It needs a wash out.  I had backed the open trailer into a door. They could have looked at it at their leisure while I went to buy load locks. But they waited until I had hooked the load and left.
  12. I return to shipper and drop loaded trailer.
  13. I hook empty trailer and take it 45 miles to wash shop.
  14. I return to shipper and drop the empty trailer.
  15. I hook loaded trailer and depart. No Countdown. It is time to put this town far behind me.

On the bright side, I am getting really good at dropping and hooking trailers.  Darn shame that I was paid exactly nothing for those 15 activities and had to shell  out my own money for the load locks and truck wash.

img_1948

Above:  On   the way to the wash shop.  The leaves are turning.

Chasing the Sundown

stevetrucker2

Collage
One, Two, Three, Etc.

From the WordPress site.

Interstate 70 Rest Area Mile Marker 130,  Licking (Yes, that’s what it’s called) County   Ohio – November, 2016

To reduce chronological confusion, when I am writing “in real time” I will put that text in italics. 

Normal font means I am describing something that happened a day or more ago.

At times, it seems that I don’t have a moment to spare.  After Denver, I took a load of meat from Kansas to Maryland.  I spent a lot of time in Maryland a while back while I was “Shipwrecked” at a Peterbilt Shop.

The delivery in Maryland was in three parts.  The first was a big box chain distribution center that was no problem.  The second was a Kafka Movie experience.  I arrived an hour early at Three AM.  I was left waiting for a door.  That is to be expected for early arrival so I was not alarmed.  I got a door about 90 minutes later, backed the open trailer in and turned in my paperwork – all as expected.  After that, the driver waits for the green “docking light” to turn red.  This indicates that the unloading has begun and the trailer is “latched” to the building to prevent the trailer from moving.  All this would be normal.

But, after an hour, the light was still green.  Not normal.  I went back to the receiving office and to ask politely if there was some problem or misunderstanding.  I was told to “just wait for the call”.  On the way back to the truck I notice that eight of ten truck drivers near me are also still looking at green lights in their rear-views.  I waited until it was obvious that I would miss my next appointed drop at Seven AM and called to re-schedule.  I told the receiving office at stop #3 (a quarter mile away) that I would need at least another hour.  She asked where I was.  When I told her stop#2’s name and address, she gave me two and one half hours.  That made me think she knew something I didn’t. 😉

Drivers generally don’t bother each other in loading docks because they are all busy with paperwork or sending reports or trying to get some sleep.  But, I happened to catch a neighbor (also sitting at a green light for over an hour) and he told me that this is normal for Drop #2.  At last the light went red and unloading began.  They were through in time for me to barely make the new appointment at Drop #3.  So, with paperwork in hand and a song in my heart I started the engine and made ready to leave.  The light was still red.  Again, my trailer was clamped to the building.  I could not leave unless I dragged the building with me.  A polite reminder call to the receiving office and I was assured I would be released momentarily.  I called again fifteen minutes later and said, “I don’t mean to be a pest or anything, but…”

I was at last released to arrive double-late at Drop #3.  By this time, my door had been given away and I had to wait another three hours for a door – not unusual for late arrivals.

During the early hours at Drop#2, I received a new load assignment.  I reviewed the information and made a trip plan.  This opportunity expired during the delay at the door.  Another assignment went exactly the same way while delayed at Stop#3.

jill-both-ways2Above:  I don’t have any pictures that relate to this post, so  this is a photo of Jill’s recent directions at highway exits.  As you see, Jill has gone all Schrodinger’s Cat on me – actually telling me to stay and go at the same time.  This went away after a recent software upgrade.

 

Interstate 94 Rest Area at mile 161 near Ann Arbor, Michigan – 3 AM 11/13/16

I am on a tight schedule two loads in front of the narrative.  I will find some time soon (another 34) to catch up.  Meanwhile, I have these snippets of time to advance the story.

All told, I spent over ten hours in Maryland planning trips that were later cancelled, interacting with receiving personnel, filing reports, doing paperwork, moving the truck around, waiting for a door or waiting in the door. I might find that sort of activity more interesting and challenging if I were actually paid to do it.

From Maryland, I was sent out to the end of a Peninsula where truck stops are apparently not socially acceptable.  There is a chicken plant down there where I was assigned a load.  No fuel or parking so it requires preparation and lead time and back without running out of fuel or drive time.  It is a lot like Free Diving where one holds their breath to descend to great depths and then return to the surface.  This chicken plant is an ugly, unorganized place where they tell you to “drop the empty anywhere” and your full trailer is somewhere on that same lot.  I walked around on foot through the muck on the parking lot that also includes thousands of feathers and other organic material from the hundreds of seagulls hanging out around the yard.

Exiting the yard when my load was ready was a choreography.  I had to hook the trailer and drag it around to the scale, past all the randomly placed empties and loaded trailers.  The scale exits back to the yard, so we do it again to get out the gate.  I rehearsed the sequence on foot, making sweeping motions where I would swing wide to avoid collision.  I’m sure the yard personnel thought I was some sort of latter day Mr. Monk and avoided me as a result.

Detroit Receiving Yard – 7 AM 11/13/16

Checking in at the guard shack here in Detroit left me with instructions to wait for someone to come find me. I parked where he told me and looked in vain for a receiving office.  When my appointment time came I called that number we have for contact and sure enough, there was another door, outside the yard fence where I should have gone.  The guard is just a guard and has nothing to do with Receiving.  Now that someone in operations knows I am here, I should get a door soon.

Back to the chicken load from Virginia Shore to Iowa.

My work cycle was now reversed from what works.  I was getting up  in the late afternoon and driving until early morning.  Arriving at truck stops and rest areas exactly when they can be expected to be overflowing into the streets and out onto the Interstate shoulders.  The trick of passing up the rear-enders to find new vacancies works about half the time.  If it fails, then there is the exit ramp.  If that is full, the next stop may be only 30 to 50 miles away.

Now Westward bound, I was chasing the sunset instead of fleeing the dawn, as I would prefer.  Jupiter appears above the sun and dominates the sky after dusk.  When I turn around and head back East, I will see (low to high) Mercury, Saturn, Venus and Mars above the predawn Sun.  Venus should be obvious,  Mercury may be lost in the Sun.  Saturn is faint, being on the far side of the Sun.  Mars can always be recognized by its reddish color.

Delivering my Giant Containers of Chicken (one per pallet, 20 pallets  – 39,000 pounds) was a pleasure.  The Receiving staff was pleasant and informative.  The lady of “mature” years who signed me in took me to a window to show me where to park and described what to expect from the loaders.  She directed me to the “facilities” and offered me coffee.  The doors had a half mile of run-out in front of them making the easiest docking in the world.  After I left, I found no room at the inn at the local truck stop, but there was a Walmart down the street with other trucks parked.  I joined them and spent about $90 re-stocking the ships’ galley before spending a restful 10 hour break in the same eight parking spaces.

From there to Ottomwa, Iowa to take on a load of pork.  I dragged it to Michigan and I thought I was in the twilight zone when I pulled into the chosen area where I expected an 8 PM crowd and found only one other truck in the midst of about 30 pull-through diagonal spaces.  A third truck arrived and I asked the driver about this phenomenon.  She said it is like this every weekend.

Normally I fill up my water bottles at rest areas.  I found the water fountains stained with mineral deposits and the water was not worth collecting.  When stainless steel fountains are stained, be very afraid.  Flint, Michigan is just down the road from here.  You would think they might use water softeners and filters at rest stops and other very public places.  Evidently not.

I called from Detroit Receiving again after an hour parked.  I’m next, they tell me.

Vermillion Service Plaza exit 139, Interstate 80, Ohio – 1 PM 11/13/16

The Detroit drop is complete and I have moved to a place 20 miles from the Ohio drop.  I’ll leave at 3:30 AM tomorrow to complete that one and drive 120 miles to another appointment at noon.

This brings us to the point where the two narratives merge into the present.

Over The Road,

Steve

The Orion Nebula

SteveTrucker2             Homepage

Some of you readers are aware that I have been working as a Telescope Operator at the George Observatory at Brazos Bend State Park.  There are three domed instruments that are open to the public for viewing on Saturday nights – weather permitting.  I get to operate the smallest to these — a 14 inch Schmidt Cassegrain instrument.   For non-Astronomy Nerds, the 14 inch number refers to the diameter of the mirror that is inside the big, black tube.

BTW: Brazos Bend State Park, where the George Observatory is located, was closed for flooding until early July.  It re-opened just briefly but is now closed for long-overdue renovation.  So, this activity of mine is “on hold”.  I volunteered over at the Museum of Natural History – more about that later

SchmidtCassigrain14inch
Fourteen inch Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope — George Observatory, West Dome

We might have forty or more visitors on an average night, but even so there are occasional intervals when I can make some photographs.  There was one night when the atmospheric conditions made the “seeing” miserable, but I still managed to catch some images of Saturn.  Most detail of the planet and rings was lost, but a couple of satellites were captured in one long time-exposure where the planet and rings were overexposed.  You might need to zoom to see the moons.

SaturnSatellitesCu
Overexposed Saturn with two satellites

More recently,  on a night with better seeing, the Orion Nebula was captured in a series of different exposure times.  I include two below.

Orion10s2
Orion Nebula — 10 second exposure

Orion20s
Orion Nebula — 20 second exposure

There are methods, these days, to stack (combine) multiple images and get far more impressive results.  I am looking in to that.

Stay Tuned.

Steve

One, Two, Three, Etc. : Westchase Farmers Market

For Thursday August 15, 2019 3-7PM:   (This appearance has been canceled, but see the links below for Saturday 8/17 and Sunday 8/16) One, Two, Three, Etc. – a Houston arts and craft company that offers Peruvian  jewelry, ornaments and accessories.   Then:  Saturday at Energy Corridor  Then:  Sunday at Sugarland

Collage.jpg MapPeru  Westchase Farmers Market at:

St. Cyril of Alexandria Catholic Church   

10503 Westheimer Road (at Rogerdale Road)

Houston, TX 77042

Near Westheimer and the Sam Houston Tollway.  3 to 7 PM.

WestchasefarmersMarket

Planetary Defense

trimmed_beard_stevecu

Homepage

Like many people, I have an interest in the idea that the Earth has been the victim of a multitude of asteroid impacts, over the Eons, and might become targeted again.  Unlike many people, I have looked up the orbital parameters and mass for some near-Earth asteroids and applied Kepler’s Laws to estimate what effort might be necessary to change the path of a potential Earth-impacting planetoid. 

DeepImpact.png

Figure 1:  There was a movie about this

 What I found was that it would be extremely expensive, but within the realm of possibility. Well, damn the expense!  If it can be done, we would do it or suffer the consequences.  I used the Cassini Saturn-orbiting probe as my example of “current technology”, which tells other Space Nerds how long ago that activity occurred.

 The scenario was that we should launch a mass the size of Cassini with that probe’s velocity to collide with the asteroid – not to blast it into pieces, because that would not be nearly enough.  Rather it would be to change the orbit – to delay (or advance, works either way) the arrival by one Earth radius.  The idea being that when the threatening asteroid got to its intercepting point, the Earth would not yet (or no longer) be there.

Cassini.jpg

Figure 2:  Cassini:  Now, I don’t mean to ram billion-dollar space probes into asteroids.  I just used this as an example of what mass has been launched before – at what velocity.

The truth is that I don’t remember* how many “Cassini masses” would be required, but I seem to remember that it was at least 20, so we will go with that.   After all (and as I pointed out at the time) Boeing would be happy to launch 20 measly rockets, just to have the “Boeing Saves the World” press coverage.  That choice of Boeing* is another indicator of the age of this calculation.  Today, I reckon SpaceX would be the contractor of choice.  Tell me Elon Musk wouldn’t be happy to get that media coverage! 

 There are a lot of details that make this far more complicated than I might have led you to believe.  For example, Cassini only got out to Saturn by making “slingshot” passes of Venus (twice), the Earth and Jupiter.  It is actually the velocity that is the critical element and a very great deal of that was gained by those encounters.  I have assumed that we learn of impending doom long before the pending event, since Cassini was launched in 1997 and arrived at Saturn in 2004. 

It also took a long time to engineer the craft and develop the mission but, we imagine that development of a simple impactor would be vigorously expedited, given the circumstances.  It might be better to just send a big bag of sand.  And one might entertain the idea of releasing the sand from the bag just before impact to spread it out some.  See, you don’t want to make a lot of fragments, since those will undoubtedly have a variety of orbits, some of which might still intersect the Earth.

 One complicating problem about all this was pointed out by Carl Sagan.  If I change the orbit of the asteroid and don’t do the job in “one fell swoop”, the effect is to move the location of impact, not into space, but to another location on Earth.  Sagan compared this to “walking” a very large Nuclear bomb across whatever countries are between the initial impact zone and the “edge of the planet”.  Carl had in mind some kind of rocket placed on the asteroid that would gradually move the impact zone.  I checked that idea and it requires a lot of “rocketry” and so lots of logistics and assembly and fueling.  My simple-minded “throwing rocks” (or sandbags) scenario was a lot less complicated but still not in the “one fell swoop” category.

Now, I told you all that so I could tell you this:

I am currently attending the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.  This is the 50th such conference and it is no coincidence that the moon landing was also 50 years ago.  The Conference “proper” has yet to start.  I have just finished the second of two sessions of  what is called the Microsymposium 60 – a “preliminary” event, like the no-name band that opens for Pink Floyd*.   

 *Shall I just put an asterisk on these “tells” for how old I am? LPSC

Figure 3:  Lunar and Planetary Science Conference

 Microsymposium 60 (Spellcheck fails miserably when they make up words like that, so I copy-and-paste these things) was all about how there is now a “Moon Rush” of private contractors and government effort to return to the moon.  That sort of news is usually hyperbole*, but this time it might be different.  Government will probably not come through anytime soon, but there is a moon lander by a private company that – if all goes well – will land on April 11…this year!  I just learned that in Microsymposium 60.

BeresheetOrbit

Figure 4:  Space IL Beresheet probe. This was a Lunar X-Prize entry, but the X-prize expired un-won.  They went on anyway.

Other private companies have been making moon landers, too.  They are ready to go and showing their wares (along with Instrument Makers) to eager planetary scientists today and throughout the Conference.  In case you think these are lightweights, among the presenters were Lockheed Martin and SpaceX. Some of the lesser known companies have made equipment and whole probes before.  A company called Masten has made over 600 flights, (many with landings) to date.

MASTEN

Figure 5:  Masten

Microsymposium 60 will be the subject of yet another post (or magazine article).  This post is to reveal where I am about to go listen to technical presentations for three hours this afternoon.  Notice (below) that this is for “the media”.  Yup, I am “credentialed” Working Press (it says so, right here on my plastic badge) for the entire Convention.

Workshop for the Media on Planetary Defense
at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference

Everything you’ve always wanted to know about near-Earth objects and planetary defense: a workshop for journalists and science writers. (that’s  me! – Steve)

Sunday, March 17, 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. (4:00 p.m. EDT, GMT -5)
The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center
Indian Springs

The workshop is free but places are limited, so registration is required.

In this three-hour workshop, experts will report on the methods and status of finding, tracking, and characterizing near-Earth objects (NEOs) and planning for planetary defense. Plenty of time will be provided for questions and discussion.

Agenda

Journalists and science writers will have an opportunity to learn about such developments as:

  • Progress in ground-based optical and radar observations of near-Earth asteroids and comets.
  • Advances in modeling and understanding atmospheric, land, and water impacts of NEOs.
  • Current understanding of NEO characteristics.
  • NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test, the first mission that will demonstrate an asteroid deflection technique (the kinetic impactor).
  • Functions of the Minor Planet Center, the International Asteroid Warning System, and the Space Missions Planning Advisory Group.
  • The first test of the global asteroid-impact warning system and plans for a second test.
  • Interagency and international cooperation on planning for planetary defense.
  • The status of planning for a dedicated, space-based asteroid detection telescope.

Experts on hand will include:

  • NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson
  • NASA NEO Observations Program Manager Kelly Fast
  • NASA Planetary Defense Coordination Office Program Executive Rob Landis
  • NASA NEO Observations Program Scientist Michael Kelley
  • University of Arizona Associate Professor, Small Bodies, Situational Awareness, Vishnu Reddy
  • Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCAM) Principal Investigator Amy Mainzer, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Hasta Luego,

Steve