Tag: Humor

Too Briefly, Home

SteveTrucker2
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Another Masterpiece from the WordPress site


August 16-21, 2016

Baltimore Washington International Airport

Chicago O’Hare Airport

Home in Houston

In addition to a Driver Manager, I have a “Counselor” who is supposed to represent me in matters of family considerations, personal leave and financial matters.  I will admit that I doubted the effectiveness of this set-up from the start.  It may be that I am too cynical on these matters.  But I insist that I have good reason to be cynical by default.

Nevertheless,  I called and told my tale to my Counselor and she did what someone should have done before they jerked my chain around like they did.  She found a place for me to store the truck and bought me an air ticket home.  So, while I cannot forgive the despicable way they were treating me, I can say (somewhat grudgingly) that they ultimately did the right thing. Since I am managing to get these loads delivered on time and safely (and at bargain prices, I might add), I have every right to expect the right thing.

So let’s move on.    The place where I left the truck is the other Peterbilt shop in Maryland, this one in Baltimore.  I made sure to tell them about my ten-day visit to their sister “Pete Store” in Landover where I was so long a fixture in their shop that they joked about me being put “on the payroll”.

I am in the Baltimore-Washington International Airport  (BWI) with an hour and a half to burn.  If it were anywhere but an airport, I would have a beer.  I vaguely  remember beer. But the fact that the menus don’t mention prices and that this is the Eastern Seaboard North of Virginia tells me that these prices are out of my league.  Besides, I’ve waited over a month and it won’t hurt me to wait until I can have beer at merely retail prices.  On the other hand, I don’t do this often.  These days I almost don’t drink beer at all.  Maybe just one.  In the spirit of investigation, you see. (That wasn’t hard to get over, now was it?).

Well, beer at BWI is seven dollars for a draft pint.  I can’t call it reasonable.  Indeed I  can still call it excessive, but with the understanding that the airport will set the rents for these places knowing that they can charge these excessive amounts and so that is what has to happen for them to meet that rent.  So, I pay the seven bucks for a Samuel Adams draft and tip a Dollar – once.

You may remember that this all came about because they wanted me to go back to Illinois.  In a weird twist of fate, I had a layover in Chicago before the final flight to Houston.  In Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD), the investigative urge comes upon me again and I find that the price of beer went is now in double digits – for the same Samuel Adams draft.    I am an old man of limited means and so I appreciate very much that the bartender selling this expensive brew contributed his tip to the price of my beer.

So, now I am home at that same kitchen table where you saw my “before and after” photos.  I have been to the gym this morning to swim 15 laps and already I have some muscle tone in my upper body that has been so sadly lacking in the last few months.  I also weighed myself to find out that I am still 70 pounds lighter than the end of  last year.  That is a really good thing, since my health was beginning to notice the extra stress!

I have “taken care of business” – most importantly to get my youngest son to college at UT Dallas.  It is a great campus for a University that is gaining a good reputation for Computer Science.   Among their corporate sponsors is Texas Instruments, a company that invented a little thing called the “integrated circuit”.

I dutifully spoke the required phrases that all Fathers must recite.

Like:

“Why when I was in college, we had roommates and a bathroom down the hall with a gang shower.  Not these single bedrooms and private baths. ”

“ We had to lug around big piles of hardcover books, not your fancy-pants ipads.’

“We walked to classes in the snow, uphill – both ways”.

The elder son is now a Chef and I have counseled him to become a restauranteur extraordinaire and create a gastronomic empire on the model of Pappas family – now famously successful in Houston and all of Texas.

http://www.pappas.com/about/pappas-history/

I figure that while I am dreaming, I should dream BIG.

I also was able to make room in the overstuffed garage for the second of four automobiles that will live here with the two resident humans for the near future.  It is perhaps ominous that cats now outnumber human occupants in my remote and fondly remembered home.

And my lovely wife is also busy with her many interests – not least of which is her travel agency where she creates “Dream Vacations”,  arranging cruises and tours worldwide.  I am happy that in my absence, my loved ones are industrious and well-occupied.

Me? I am also well-occupied, back in my truck in North Carolina and bound for Orlando.  This is not what I imagined I would be doing at my age, but it has been challenging and interesting.  I will continue to ply the highways and tell my tales.  I of course appreciate your interest, Dear Readers.

Stay tuned!

P.S., I know you like when I include photos. I don’t have any that relate directly to the text. But, the photos below are from the time in Maryland when I visited the Air and Space Museum.  And, I did mention Maryland.

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Barrel Racer Mystery

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

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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.

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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?

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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.

Thirty Four Hours in Ripon

stevetrucker2 Transferred from WordPressmariluslogoclickhere

September 16, 2016,  2 PM Loves Truck Stop in Ripon, CA

I was on my way to Walmart in Ceres, CA in the last post.  Jill had the address for Walmart, so I wasted no time getting there.  Only I somehow missed the whole Walmart.  Turns out it was on the corner, facing the cross street, so I turned (as directed) and drove off into oblivion.  I always get a sinking feeling when that happens because I could go for many miles before I find a place to turn around.  But, I found a big, empty parking lot in just half a mile.  I pressed Jill’s “re-route” button and she sends me back the way I came.  My speed is too low because I am scanning for that blue sign, when a Walmart truck passes me.  Now I can follow him home.

I came in the wrong driveway and, even using all the pavement, I still had to hop the curb with the trailer tires.  This might not have been the first time,  because there were yellow posts just back from the curb.  The critical problem is so far away that I can’t tell if a collision is near.  Also, I am seeing it in the fish-eye mirror that makes it look even further away.  Pivoting the big rectangular mirror out lets me see enough to ease the wheels up on the curb just inches from the posts and get through.  My mouth gets very dry when I am doing things like this.

While I am shopping, the parking lot began to fill.  A few items were forgotten, but best to exit before I get trapped by cars parking around the truck.  Sometimes it seems that people think the drivers can call up Scotty and have their trucks beamed out to the highway  Believe me, I have wished that many times myself.

The next stop is 18 miles away in Ripon.  There is a Flying J (FJ) Truck stop and a Loves at the exit and following Jill’s directions puts me in a lot where I can see both signs.  Of course, these signs are on sixty foot poles and can be seen from miles away.  It is not until I have committed an hour and a half to the 34 that will reset me that I notice I am in the Loves lot, not FJ.  I could “creep” the truck over without losing that break time, if I keep the speed low.  But  after the last software update,  Jill has been saying things like “Warning! If you  keep driving it may invalidate your break, which is not finished” when I move the truck while on break.

No worries, I can walk across the street to use the shower, and I did.  The truck is in the backlot and the FJ storefront is almost the same distance away as the Loves.  I should explain that flying J was bought out by Pilot – or the other way around. In any case, my Pilot shower credits are good there, as well.    A short walk before a nap reveals that there is a supermarket just ten minutes away, past a corner of an orchard –  almond trees, it turns out.  In the morning I might make a nice stroll to buy those items I forgot at Walmart.  This is not an activity for the afternoon, since the temperature is 101° F now that we have descended into the Central Valley of California.  It was 48° in the morning in  Arizona, but that was high up in a mountain pass.

I made the shower run and after a nap, I did my laundry, also at the FJ. There was time to sweep out the cab – a never ending task since the first time I step back in from the oily, greasy and litter strewn truck lot I negate any previous cleaning.  Morning was a good time for a walk (58°F) and I made it to the Supermarket for “remainder” shopping.  I found the bakery French loaf that Walmart did not have, milk and cookies and took pictures of the almond orchard.

almondorchardandinsetAbove:  Almond trees ain’t much to look at.  These are a frequent road-side sight along this stretch of CA 99. The almonds are seeds of a fruit that you see here (inset) dried and split open.  The light brown kernel is what you see if you ever buy almonds “in the shell”.

Later, I swept out the trailer, since I may get a produce load and they are nitpicky about cleanliness.  Some even insist on a washout, so my work might have been unnecessary.  However, while normally trailers come and go, this particular trailer (15820T) has been with me for nearly two weeks now. It was there for the Great Massachusetts Beef Journey, the Frozen Catfish Sojourn, the Thirty Thousand Pounds of Bananas and the Twenty Mules Frozen Chicken dash to California.  It was there at the Ad Hoc Truck Stop and the Tire Shop at Santa Rosa. It seems like part of the family now, so I reckon it should be clean.

To be available at Two AM tomorrow when my 34 is over, I need to sleep now.  I have partaken of the previously mentioned milk and cookies as I was writing this part and they are as effective a sleep aid as any I have purchased over-the-counter at a pharmacy.

Good Night.

I was just awakening from an afternoon nap when a pre-plan came over the satellite link.  I will be taking on a produce load in Salinas and delivering it to Denton, Texas.  The pick up date is the 19th, so I sent my acceptance with a comment that I will be fully rested and ready with 11 hours of drive time and 70 hours of eight day duty at 2 AM on the 18th.  It may be that I can get an early start on this load, but I have no idea if that will be possible.  Of course, it is Saturday evening and I reckon there won’t be anyone available to ask.

This is as good a place as any to end this post and pick up with the new load later.

Over The Road,

Steve

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