Tag: Life Experience

The St. Louis Arch at the End of the Open Road

SteveTrucker2  Homepage   DreamVacations

StLouisArchThe St Louis Arch is a reminder that the Peace of the Open Road will come to an end in Memphis tomorrow afternoon and the next day that “grim obligation” returns.

 Walkabout convention:  When you see text like this in italics it means that I am speaking in the moment of the date and place of the subtitle.  When the text is like this I am speaking of another time or place or both.

Loves Truck Stop, Interstate 29, exit 44  St. Joseph, Missouri – September 9, 2017

Tomorrow will be the fourth day of driving from Wallula, Washington to Memphis, Tennessee.  These are the most pleasant of times, when the toil of obtaining or liberating a cargo is absent from the list of exasperating tasks that must be fulfilled in a day’s work.  There is only the highway and most of it is in the most agreeable form – the open road. 

The Pacific Northwest is blessed with long stretches of highway that seem to go on eternally and present the observer with vast tableaus of intricate, awe-inspiring landscape.  To amble through this wonderland for days – without the grim obligation of mucking about in yards, wrangling trailers and dealing with guards and clerks – is a pleasure that transcends the mundane toil of what is a demanding and unrewarding occupation.

BensonMountainsOnTheWay To amble through this wonderland…

Pilot Truck Stop, Interstate 20, exit 26  Atlanta, Georgia – September 12,  2017

Tropical Storm Irma has become a blob of rain and wind and I am somewhere near its center. There is only a constant drizzle this morning that replaces the steady downpour in which I found Atlanta. 

The truck stop was level one full when I arrived – meaning that all the “designated” parking was taken and not likely to change.  Level two was just beginning, which means that the “outliers” were finding the unofficial spaces where they won’t be in the way of commerce, i.e., not blocking the entrance, exit, fuel islands.  Your Humble Narrator found a really good spot over near – but separated from –  the automobile gas pumps.  I was worried that I would be asked to move, but that was purely paranoia of a person that does not often break rules.  Now that I awake, there are trucks parked beside me that begin to encroach upon the entrance.  No one is blocked, you understand, but every truck now entering is inconvenienced and has to carefully avoid my late-arriving neighbors.  After this “late stage two” comes stage three where emergency measures are in effect and trucks impede traffic, ignore no parking signs and pavement markings and occupy public street-sides to the point of impeding traffic.  I have only seen that once, in Ontario, Oregon where I was “snowed in” for about 30 hours.  You won’t hear about these parking “levels” anywhere else, because I just made up the system.  I think three levels are about appropriate, with the third being open-ended to include complete paralysis of traffic (a la Ontario) at its most extreme.

The delivery in Memphis went particularly well.  The staff at the receiver was polite, efficient and helpful.  The road to Atlanta was mostly unobstructed, but the rain began at Birmingham, Alabama and intensified steadily until it was the aforementioned “steady downpour” at Atlanta with wind gusts of an estimated 30 miles per hour.

The time has come to prepare for departure.  I deliver a second installment here in Atlanta and then on to Fort Mills, South Carolina and the Final.

Receivers Staging Lot, Atlanta, Georgia – September 12,  2017 – 9:22 AM

After five days of enjoyable driving, it is time to pay the piper with some uncompensated misery.  Arriving at 4:30 AM for a 6:00 AM appointment, we find a queue of trucks at the entrance.  I fall in line behind the last of them and wait.  I call the contact number and get voice mail where I leave my name, company, load number and phone.  Eventually, patience runs out and I walk to the gate, only to find another driver who also walked in.  No trace of any gate guards or receiving clerks.  Eventually, one of many autos entering stops to talk to the groups of drivers now numbering four.  Word is: after Six, if nobody shows up, enter the yard and pull up to the next gate. 

So, then we are lined up outside the next gate and I wander around looking for someone in authority, then give up and go back to the truck.  I call the contact number and leave another voice mail.  Finally the line starts to move and when we arrive at the front, I get out – bills in hand, safety vest on and they tell me to wait in the truck.  Ten minutes later the same guy tells me to go park down there and wait in the truck.  An hour later, I call  the contact number and leave another voice mail – and an hour after that, I opt for the operator, who passes my call to Tweedledee, who passes my call to Tweedledum who passes my call to voicemail. A call to the Company is next, just so they can share the pain. Grim thoughts and depression begin to consume the day.

 

Finally, I decide it’s time to do some writing – another uncompensated activity but far more satisfying – and a lumper shows up at the door to tell me to back into door 345.  Odd how that works.

Backing into doors has become less traumatic and this one – despite being a tight fit between a trailer and a full semi – is done with a minimum of trouble.  A message to the Company for the authorization of a lumper fee is completed and a check written.  The trailer is already gyrating with unloading activity.

You see how the mood has shifted from the open road to grubbing around in a Receiver’s yard!

 

Pilot Truck Stop, Interstate 70 exit 188 Warrenton, Missouri – September 14, 2017

I passed road cuts in both North Carolina and Tennessee that looked like Black Marine Shale, or something similar.   My presentation “Energy, Oil, Gas and Shale” includes a list of shale plays in the US that lists the Chatanooga Shale in Tennessee and the Cumnock Shale in North Carolina.  Whether these were the formations I glimpsed is unknown, but possible.  After all, I re-discovered the Utica Shale while passing through Midstate New York.

I will look these up when I have a good internet connection.

A preliminary search reveals that both the Chatanooga and  Cumnock formations have been drilled and assessed to be productive sources of Natural Gas.  My impression is that the economics of both are as yet marginal – depending as they do on the price of Natural Gas.  Comments that a rise in the price of Natural Gas would stimulate activity and prosperity were common to the articles I read.  It occurs to me that both these and many others such plays should soon profit from the advancing technological advances in efficiency of NG production.  That would transcend the question of rising prices.

Houston Base (the kitchen table) – October 5, 2017

Once again, I am “at liberty”.  That’s a thirties era expression for unemployed.  Let’s call this a Leave of Absence.

I am, however, reunited with my long-suffering family. My health is recovering from the constant stress of non-stop driving and I get to go swimming every day again.

The job market seems to have improved.  I say “seems” because I am applying to jobs that match my experience very well.  None of them yet have even called me back for an interview and, as usual there is no address for a follow-up.  I’ll try to track down some humans to speak to at these places, but they prefer to hide behind job web sites.  At least one job disappeared and then re-appeared, so I applied to it again.  I had expected to get a message to the effect that I had applied already, but it went straight through to “submitted”.  Perhaps this is their strategy to weed out the less desperate.

One application came with a word problem math test.  They trick the questions up.  For example, with changes in units like days, hours, weeks and “two-week periods” all in the same problem.  And one question about income from customers said “they get 7 customers every month, starting with 10 in the first month.”  This is a set-up to assume that they mean seven MORE customers every month.  But that is not what that sentence says.  So, I suspect that the total number of customers in a year is 87, not the 495 that accumulation would suggest.  The question is ambiguous and requires an assumption.  Bastards. Software managers – but I repeat myself.

 It was a timed test as well, not allowing for the contemplation that revealed the deception.  I expect I did better than most would, but it has been years…alright decades…since I have dealt with such “trip-you-up” exam vultures as these.  If they do offer me a job, I will double my very meager and desperate salary request, just to compensate me for having to work with such Smart-Asses.   

Back to the Walkabout now

There were some dastardly receiving yards in the last weeks that tried my nerves.  One, in particular assigned me a parking spot (number 253) where I was bound to insert my empty trailer before I could hook the loaded one to actually go out and earn money.  The montage below shows the passenger side (L) and drivers side (R) when finally I managed to make the empty fit into the space – well over one hour later.

TIghtFItMontageMontage of Empty Slot Number 253

I was fortunate to capture a yard worker on the passenger side for to give some idea at the scale.  You will notice that the man’s head would not fit between the trailers.  Yes, I left more space on the driver’s side and drivers will know why.  I have to squeeze my XL body into that gap to crank down the landing gear and pull the fifth-wheel latch to disconnect the trailer.  My head HAS to fit between those two trailers.  It was – just barely – possible.  The Yard tractor has a hydraulic lift that can do without these activities.  And before I get through complaining – there were trailers across the way that made a “straight-line backup” impossible.  I TURNED the trailer into this space – backward while looking in a mirror, people!  I will remind you of what I have said many times.  This activity I do FOR FREE, just so I can get back on the road and actually earn money!  I won’t tell you who this yard owner is because they might sue me for revealing how they abuse the people who carry their stuff.

P.S.  Don’t worry TVS – I’ll keep it “civil” for your article.  🙂

Over-the-Road,

Steve

Advertisements

Changing Energy Use in The United States

SteveTrucker2MarilusLogoClickHere

Steve Campbell           November 2015

Introduction

It is a habit of modern environmental advocates to insist upon doing away with fossil fuels and using only “renewable energy”. Fossil fuels are defined by as “a natural fuel such as coal or gas, formed in the geological past from the remains of living organisms.” (1). According to the US department of Energy, renewable energy includes “solar, wind, geothermal, bioenergy and water (hydroelectric)” (2).

If asked whether that replacement is possible or practical, most of those same environmental advocates (hereinafter referred to as: “Greens”) would enthusiastically reply in the positive, as if it is an obvious thing. It did not seem obvious to me and so I made an examination of modern energy use in the United States. At some point in the following pages, I will express a few opinions. But, I promise to end with some solidly founded conclusions.

The numbers

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory does a yearly assessment of energy use in the United States. It includes sources of energy, amounts of each source and what use is made of it by what sector of the economy. They publish a very interesting summary (3) of the results which you will see in Figure A. The amounts of energy are in Quadrillion British Thermal Units (which are mercifully referred to simply as “Quads”). A Quad is the equivalent of about 180 million barrels of petroleum. But, the important issue in this analysis is the portions that each source contributes to the total.

LivermoreUS_EnergyUse

Figure A: Energy Use in the United States 2014

Analysis

I will just look at the total energy use for this analysis. The numbers on the left side of the chart are detailed in the table in Figure B, below. The Non-renewables are in blue, the renewables in green. I have included Nuclear with the fossil fuels only because greens are as strongly opposed to that as they are to fossil fuels, if not more so. The table is depicted in a pie chart in figure C.

  EnergyUse2014Table  

Figure B: Energy sources and amount contributed to the total

EnergyUse2014Chart

Figure C: Pie chart of values in figure B, labeled by percent of total

The next pie chart in Figure D, has the fossil fuels and Nuclear plotted as blanks to show what needs to be replaced in the “total renewable” scenario. The result speaks for itself. Ninety percent of the current energy use is unacceptable to the Greens.

GreenEnergyComeUpShort

Figure D: The renewable fraction of US energy use in the US in 2014

So, we are left with these ten percent which must expand to fill 100 percent. The simple idea that we just multiply the capacity for each source by ten will quickly run into some serious problems. I will, of course elaborate upon them next by considering each source individually.

Biomass

Biomass in the transportation sector is mostly ethanol made almost exclusively from corn or biodiesel from other food crops like soybeans. Both are driving up the global price of food and are not profitable without government subsidies. I would just add that energy is used in growing crops, transportation to factories, fermentation, distillation and transportation of the biofuel to market (in tanker trucks because ethanol corrodes pipelines). Fertilizer is typically manufactured from natural gas. So, unless all that energy use is also converted to renewables, you have not accomplished much change.

According to the New England Complex Systems Institute (4):

“1. The amount of corn used to produce the ethanol in a gallon of regular gas would feed a person for a day,

  1. The production of ethanol requires so much fossil fuel energy that its energy benefit is only about 20%…
  2. The cost of gas made with ethanol is actually higher per mile because ethanol reduces gasoline’s energy per gallon…

The US used over 45% of its 2011 corn crop to produce ethanol, up from under 15% before 2005 …–a rise dictated by federal mandate and promoted by federal subsidies. The drought in 2012 is leading to questions about whether using corn for fuel is reasonable while people go hungry due to a world food shortage…

The total amount of ethanol produced in the US in 2011 was 13.95 billion gallons, enough to feed 570 million people that year.” (emphasis mine, SC)

I tried to check these numbers and I keep coming up with 535 million. Until I am able to resolve this difference, I will use the lesser figure. But the difference is small and number is still staggering.

In either case, that number was so staggeringly big that I reviewed the assumptions in the calculations in Albino, et al (4). There are a few mitigating factors. For one, the caloric requirements cited were the minimum for survival. Also, the field corn used for ethanol production is otherwise used for animal feed and for intermediate products like corn flour, meal, starch or oil. In all those cases, the food value ultimately is less than in direct consumption. Nevertheless, the 500+ million figure is still correct, in theory. The potential use of the corn produced for fuel could supply that much food.

As I mentioned previously, we are trying to imagine increasing by a factor of ten the portion of energy that is “renewable”. In the case of biofuels, to increase by ten times means that the United States alone would be burning enough food to feed over Five Billion People. That is more than two thirds of the Earth’s population. That is simply not acceptable.

You will note in Figure A that the majority of biomass contribution is not in transportation, but rather in Industry. The burning of agricultural and industrial waste for heat or to generate electricity is a good example. Imagine a sawmill that accumulates tons of sawdust. That waste represents a good deal of energy. You may note from Figure A that Industry is the most efficient of all energy using endeavors. They use biomass because it makes economic sense. I would imagine that most such opportunities are already in use. So, an increase by a factor of ten would seem impossible.

 Hydroelectricity

Hydroelectricity is quite efficient, clean and reliable. While it does require a specific sort of geological setting, it could probably be increased a great deal. A factor of ten might be possible, at least in theory. The problem with Hydro is that its Green “credentials” have expired. Greens are beginning to call for the removal of dams from rivers and are not enthusiastic about increasing hydropower. According to the Hydropower Reform Coalition (5):

“There is a place for new conventional hydropower development in our nation’s renewable energy policy, but such development should be limited to projects that use existing water and infrastructure and do not place additional stress on river ecosystems.”  

I can only imagine that they are expecting an improved efficiency from “existing water and infrastructure”. Without new infrastructure, there can be no other way to increase production. Figure E shows the Energy Information Agency (EIA) numbers for amount of hydropower in the US over the years 1990 to 2010. While other renewables have increased, Hydro is in a definite decline. Note that the increase of “other renewable” is about equal to the decline in Hydro. This is far from a candidate for a massive increase. We will be lucky to retain what Hydro now exists.

Hydrootherrenw

Figure E: EIA graph of hydropower and “other renewable” electricity amounts.

Wind

Wind turbines can generate substantial amounts of electricity when the wind conditions are right. Because of government subsidies, wind power has expanded rapidly. As of 2014 Wind represents 2% of the energy mix in the United States. There is room for expansion. However, as it turns out this is a much more complicated subject than the previous energy sources.

The cost of wind power has been claimed by Greens to be less than fossil fuel power plants. This claim is ignoring a multitude of hidden costs, including massive subsidies at taxpayer expense. According to Ed Hoskins’ detailed analysis (6), the cost of wind is at least double that of natural gas. The chart in figure F shows these figures and I have included the Solar photovoltaic numbers to refer back to when I get to that source.

Cost_Wind_Gas

Figure F: Comparison of cost per unit energy for Solar, Wind and Natural Gas electric generation

But the point here is not cost, but rather reliability. Wind turbines have a range of wind speeds. There is a lower limit of wind speed below which the turbine cannot generate power. There is also a high speed limit where the turbine must be “feathered” or turned sideways to the wind to avoid damage to the blades. When those periods occur, the electric demand must still be met and other sources must be called upon to provide the power. There are electric storage systems like flywheels that can store power and smooth fluctuations, but their capacity can be measured only in mere seconds. This means that a coal or natural gas fired power plant has to be kept idling, ready to pick up the entire load with a moment’s notice. Idling is a particularly wasteful thing to do as it burns energy for exactly nothing.

There is one argument to the effect that “It’s always windy somewhere”. By that they mean to say that one windfarm can take over for another. There are regional weather systems where stagnant (i.e., near windless) high pressure sets in across most of the country. This can be during a heat wave or a frigid cold wave where power consumption is already high. The fact that it is windy in Romania is irrelevant. There is no free lunch. Wind power must have a 100% back-up or leave its customers in the dark when the going gets tough.

Now we get to the carnage. These wind turbines are sited in zones of prevailing wind, which by no coincidence are the same zones where birds migrate. Windmills chop up birds at a horrifying rate. The Greens are trying to sandbag this by pointing out that cats kill far more birds than windmills. I expect they are exaggerating, but it does not matter. My cat, for example brought me a few mocking birds and, once a blue jay.  But he never dragged a Golden Eagle carcass up to my back door. Furthermore, nobody ever claimed that cats are “Green” as they have claimed about Wind for decades. Windmills do not discriminate and kill many thousands of birds of “endangered species” per year. Certainly they are endangered! Yet, Wind currently has a “Get Out of Jail Free Card” to do so for the next thirty years. They will not be fined.

Then there are the bats. For example, in Central Texas there are large populations of bats. Those flying rodents eat the insects that would otherwise eat our food (and Biomass!) crops. They are murdered by the thousands by the windmills there. You might think that their echo-locating senses would help them avoid the spinning blades. Well, they don’t even have to be struck by the blades. The low-pressure zones behind the blades collapse their lungs. Birds are much tougher, but they never see the blades coming, especially at night. The toll on bats is large – perhaps more than on birds.

While I would never be accused of being Green, I find the situation unacceptable and I object to these bird and bat choppers on environmental grounds. In my humble opinion, Wind ain’t Green. And Greens are starting to agree.   They forced a wind farm in California named Altamont tear down their windmills and replace them with larger ones that supposedly kill fewer. I suspect, but cannot prove that the larger mills just throw the dead birds farther away so they are out of sight and not counted as damage.

Solar

Solar energy is not a new idea. It has been exploited for longer than human history. I am sure that my Ice Age ancestors dried their meat with Solar. For local reference, my mother used Solar to dry our clothes when I was young. Later, I saw coffee farmers in Venezuela, who to this day use Solar to dry their beans. Solar is respected in architectural and industrial design. In remote locations photovoltaics if properly managed can provide electricity in medium amounts but not continuously.

There is nothing wrong with Solar until someone wants to make it a baseline electricity source. Now we are in trouble – and for obvious reasons! Beyond the totally obvious fact that the sun goes down at night, there are times when the weather will cover the sun and not provide power, neither for photovoltaic, nor for solar thermal plants. You might put these way out in the desert where there are few clouds, but then you must build the powerline infrastructure to get the power to someone who will pay for it. That is far from free.

Now is when I will ask you to look back at Figure F, at that Cyan bar that shows that “Photovoltaics Large Scale” is almost four times the cost of natural gas generation. Looking further than cost, there is reliability to be concerned. In the desert, there might not be much concern about sunlight, but even there, the sun goes down. Storage of electricity is to this day, quite difficult and inefficient. To put it like Tom and Ray Magliozzi (Car Talk) when they speak of electric cars, “It’s all about the batteries and it always will be”. You might imagine that Elon Musk will build all the batteries we need with his mega-plant. You would be wrong. There is a place called Cushing, Oklahoma where there is a great tank farm that is the core of the distribution center of petroleum for the central United States. The reserve of energy in Cushing is such that it would take FOURTY of Elon’s “Super Factories” ONE HUNDRED YEARS to match it in energy storage. Cushing is the largest tank farm in the country, but there are hundreds of others.

Geothermal

(Wikipedia (7)) Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. Thermal energy is the energy that determines the temperature of matter. The geothermal energy of the Earth’s crust originates from the original formation of the planet and from radioactive decay of materials (in currently uncertain[1] but possibly roughly equal[2] proportions). The geothermal gradient, which is the difference in temperature between the core of the planet and its surface, drives a continuous conduction of thermal energy in the form of heat from the core to the surface. The adjective geothermal originates from the Greek roots γη (ge), meaning earth, and θερμος (thermos), meaning hot…. …Geothermal power is cost effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly,[8] but has historically been limited to areas near tectonic plate boundaries.

Geothermal energy also works well, in appropriate locations. This is another source that could be expanded and maximized. In the US, it contributes 0.2 Quads (far less than 1 %) of the national total. While this analysis is about the United States Energy sector, it is instructive to note other countries’ efforts in this regard. While the US capacity is small, it still represents 29% of the Geothermal in the world! No one else comes close. Figure G (again from Wikipedia) shows the amounts and contributions of geothermal generation of various countries. Of particular note are Iceland, which supplies 30% of their national energy use and also the Philippines with 27% and El Salvador with 25%. These countries have the advantage of local geology that make Geothermal a convenient and cheap source of energy. The US has many such zones that have already been developed to some extent and there should be reason to expect more.

The drawbacks? Well, the first thing they do in geothermal development is to drill holes in the ground and then fracture the rock structure so the water can circulate and pick up heat. While I have no problem with fracturing, an entire radical, hysterical contingent of Greens do have such problems! If they will allow fracturing for geothermal then they are colossal hypocrites.

Geothermal

Figure G: Geothermal generation of electricity by country (Wikipedia)

Conclusions

  • Biofuels right now consume enough food crops to feed over half a billion people. That is astonishing in itself. To multiply this burning of food by ten is nothing short of horrifying. This nation should stop the use of ethanol based fuel immediately, in my humble opinion.
  • Hydro is being assassinated by Greens and will be fortunate to not decrease. It could otherwise be increased substantially.
  • Wind is not a good idea for baseline power. Any increase will come at great cost and massive loss of avian life. And again, it must be backed up with Real Energy.
  • Solar has many of the same drawbacks as Wind. Even if it does increase by ten times, it would still represent only about 4% of the energy total and it still needs 100% back-up.
  • I see no reason why Geothermal could not increase by a factor of ten. That would make it about two percent of the energy mix.
  • While I have skipped over it because it is opposed so vehemently by Greens, Nuclear could take the majority of the energy burden. Don’t hold your breath!

Question: Can Fossil Fuels be replaced?

Short answer:   No!

References:

  1. Defining “Fossil Fuel” http://www.bing.com/search?q=define+fossil+fuel&qs=n&form=QBLH&pq=define+fossil+fuel&sc=9-18&sp=-1&sk=&cvid=D3703532B4D94B9F8098F2638D006AED
  2. Defining “Renewable Energy” http://energy.gov/science-innovation/energy-sources/renewable-energy
  3. Lawrence Livermore Energy Use Chart https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/content/assets/images/energy/us/Energy_US_2014.png
  4. D.K. Albino, K.Z. Bertrand, Y. Bar-Yam, Food for fuel: The price of ethanolarXiv:1210.6080(October 4, 2012). http://necsi.edu/research/social/foodprices/foodforfuel/ 
  5.  Hydropower reform Coalition hthttp://www.hydroreform.org/abouthydro/renewable
  6. Ed Hoskins WordPress.com site https://edmhdotme.wordpress.com/
  7. Geothermal energy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geothermal_energy

Houston Soaking, Oregon Burning

SteveTrucker2  Homepage   DreamVacations

Pilot Travel Center Interstate 84, exit 104, Biggs, Oregon – September 4, 2017

My “hot spot” fails to connect and I can’t read my email. I’ve been in the truck too long, so I meander in looking for that standard driver’s lounge with twelve big easy chairs and tables with barstools near a set of wall plugs in a large, quiet private room.  I am seated in the combination storeroom, phone booth, shower waiting room, hallway to the showers.  There are four “upright” chairs(no tables) across from a wall-mounted television stuck on lame sports commentary, overridden on occasion with announcements like “Shower guest number 41, your shower is now ready.  Please proceed to shower 3.”

.  A “Team Member” set up that card table and made some posters while shower guests, vendors (many of them  pushing those plastic wheeled carts that make such a Hellish racket on the tile and mortar floor) and the guy with the floor broom marched in and out. After the third time that I had to pull my knees out of the way, I thought maybe McDonalds would have a better place to hang around in the range of the free indoor wifi.  I was wrong.  While there was a booth near a wall plug, the flies formed a defensive barrier that effectively prevented occupation. 

The “New Reality” of the Drivers’ Lounge

My appeal for photos of the “Harvey Effect” has had limited response so far.  The First Mate has a few worthy images:

Harvey_BigHouseDownstream from the “Controlled Release” Includes Some High-end Housing.

Harvey_Garage (2).jpgThe Garage Area

The SUV has its head above water, but the sedan with the sunroof is down hard.

 MarielenasHouse (2)

  The former resident of this house was the First Mate’s guest for a few days.

My Cousin sent a photo by her friend, from the recent Solar Eclipse.  It is a little-known fact that the multitude of small gaps in a tree’s shadow act like pinhole cameras and cast images of the partial eclipse.  This is abundantly clear in the image below.

EclipseTree

Eclipse Images Cast by the Small Gaps in a Tree’s Shadow

20170821_113941 

Dwyer Base (the Rest Area), Interstate 25 exit 92, Wyoming and Distant Trees

I was surprised to find photo evidence some trees around the spot where we saw the eclipse. These were imports – that part of Wyoming is near-treeless. No one thought to go look at their shadows, however.

The landscape gets interesting around the Western end of Wyoming, as seen below:

UT_GeologyWyoming Border with Utah

OR_GeologyGeology in Abundant Evidence at Interstate 84, Oregon

OR_Irrigation.jpg

 

Irrigation Turns this Arid Part of Oregon Green

 OR_Orchards

Orchards Stand out in What is Otherwise Ranchland and Irrigated Crops.

They look like birch trees, but I ain’t no expert.

I’ll look up what sort of trees are worth the effort in irrigation and patience to grow, here.  I have lost the internet again as I move to the relative luxury of the truck cab again.  Sitting here on the bunk and writing has the effect of putting the following thought in my mind:

“I could use a nap just now”.

I like to watch Netflix until I fall asleep.  With that not possible, I fall back on a few DVDs I have brought along for that very purpose.  Ice Station Zebra ought to do it.  This Nuclear Submarine Drama of the late sixties is one of the last “Old School” epic pictures.  It has a complete inventory of orchestral music, in classical Overture, Intermission and Epilog segments as well as deep moody themes in all the scenes.  Ernest Borgnine put in one of his best performances (in my humble opinion) as a Russian counterspy.   Patrick McGoohan was hopelessly typecast in those days as a Secret Agent (see the TV series “Secret Agent” and “the Prisoner”), but does a superb job as “Jones” nonetheless.  Rock Hudson does not disappoint as the Captain. Scenes of the sub and arctic ice are overwhelmingly realistic.

So, lie back in the sleeper  berth and enjoy, Ice Station Zebra…if only for a few, drowsy minutes before slumber.

 

UT_MUDFLAPWhat Happens When You Back a Trailer Up Over a Curb

The mud flap is low enough to be caught by the tire, if the curb is high enough.  This one was.   From then it is just a matter of inches until the weighty trailer yanks off a half-inch thick rubber mat with eight or ten big bolts holding it on.

 

 

 

Climb Mount Hood!

Sitting in a Door at the receiver in Clackamas, Oregon September 5, 2017

The day began routinely enough as I visited the Truck Stop facilities before starting the pre-trip inspection.  I noticed on the way back that the moon was red and took a photo.

OregonRedMoon.jpgThe Red Moon – the camera fails as a witness.

I should have remembered the last time I have seen a red moon.  Once, when Number One Son was still less than five feet tall, I saw such a moon when crop burn-off in Mexico had sent Houston a direct stream of smoke.  That time, even the Sun was reddened in the middle of the day.  It means that there is a big fire somewhere and it turned out to be a fire where I was supposed to be going.  A major wildfire in the Oregon Gorge – which includes the Columbia river and Interstate 84.  Just a score of miles passed before there was a big LED sign flashing letters that spell – alternately – the words “All Trucks”  and “EXIT”.

Once again, the photo does not do justice to the actual view.  It was, to the eye, much closer to the red of that trailer in the foreground.  The point remains that I should have known that there was a fire in the area.  Not that it would have changed anything.  I still had to get there.

The detour signs directed all of us across the river to Washington and a pitiful little highway with one lane each way and no shoulders.  Winding up and down the hills and passing through small towns were eating up my two-hour cushion of time, but I might still make it on time.

Detours are notoriously hazardous.  All it takes is one mistake to set me up for a colossal faux pas. A yellow diamond shaped sign tells me the clearance of bridges and tunnels and here’s one that says 12’ 6”.  That will not do.  Decelerating madly, I spot another sign, this time on the other side of the road that says 13’ 3”.  While that is indeed better, just better does not suffice.  I need 13’ 6” or forget it.  We are relieved to find these are two sides of an arched tunnel.  Emergency flashers on and we take our half from the middle.  By “we” I refer to myself and the truck.  Alas, our fates are indeed linked.

Later comes a fork in the road and a decision to be made:  A 12’ 10” bridge or a 9’ lane width drawbridge.  No contest!  The truck is a bit more than 8 feet wide.  Nearly six inches of clearance on both sides!  Looxury!  Looxury!

It turns out to be a toll bridge.  There is a pre-pass lane but it quaintly refuses to recognize my pre-pass that is valid (quite literally) everywhere else in the Continental United States and walk over to the cash-only lane.  There, I make it a point to show a couple of credit cards and the one dollar in cash in my wallet that is insufficient by the sum of $4.  I offer to look through my laundry change to see if I can come up with it.  By this time they are anxiously eyeing the gathering traffic and the Spirit  of Christmas overcomes them.  My dollar and I are excused.

The toll bridge leads back to Interstate 84.  The joyous reunion is short-lived as both West-bound lanes are barricaded at the very next exit which leads to a roadway that deceptively resembles an access road.  Indeed, the masquerade is shattered only by the sign reading “Dead End”.  The part they forgot to add to the text is “…Now That It Is Too Damned Late”! There is no option left but to continue and look for a parking lot with sufficient space to turn around.  The lone candidate is a motel where only by backing in off the road will it be possible to turn around…but unfortunately illegal and dangerous.

Your Captain knows that his fate is sealed now.  And, indeed we find the End of the Road with a parking area that is 12 feet (paced off on foot) too narrow to turn the Beached Whale around.  There is a Ford Explorer there just to add insult to injury.  The sign on the nicely appointed building reads “Intertribal Commission for Wildlife Management”.  Did I mention the Yakama Indian Reservation?

A very patient Gentleman (we will call him the Game Warden) a bit older than Your Humble Narrator shows up for work a bit early.  He is nonplussed to find the Beached Whale and myself.

“Happens all the Time.”, says he.

You see the Irony, don’t you?  It happens all the time but nobody ever does anything about it like put a sign back BEFORE the Too Late Point.  And now that all traffic is diverted off the Interstate, nobody managed to put a “Detour” sign there, either.  A great deal of concern has been misspent, not only here but across this Great Land with telling trucker that their fate is sealed.  And so little trouble is spent avoiding same.

Don’t tell us we are in the WRONG place and trapped!

Tell us the RIGHT place to go!

Don’t tell us where NOT to park!

Tell us WHERE to Park!

 

The Game Warden calls the Sherriff.  He has the number on speed dial.  Deputy shows up to find an Apologetic and Humbled Captain.  As he is telling me that the turn-around is right back there at Illegal Dangerous Turnaround Motel, the clearance lights of another semi show in the distance.  Captain Walkabout is now relieved to have company in his misery.  And, he reminds the Deputy that when you open a door and a dog runs out, the first thing on your mind should be not to get the dog back – but to close that accursed door!  He did depart at that moment to go and close the road.

When finally the turnaround is accomplished (it is not illegal as long as the Deputy is present), I ask specifically how to get to Portland.  You see, no one has told me this yet!  They only told me where NOT to go.  Actually, in this last case, they told me where I SHOULD NOT have GONE. 😉

“Go over the Mountain on Highway 35 to 26.”

The route is Highway 35 to Highway 26 – through the Mt Hood Scenic Byway.  I have a few pictures.  As usual, the best views were where one dare not take photos – the better to maintain the death grip on the steering wheel.

OregonMtHoodRoadRiverIn Mount Hood National Forrest

All was well until a look in the rear-view revealed smoking brakes.  There are tur-outs on downhill grades for just such emergencies and we found one.  After setting up reflectors behind the truck and watchfully waiting – fire extinguisher in hand – until the smoke cleared,  I still smelled smoke.  I take pride in the short period that puzzlement ensued before I remembered that I was in this predicament because of a Forest Fire.

Having arrived at the end of my directions, I had only to find a way behind a locomotive and a high chain link fence to arrive at the true destination.  I ask at the Wrong Place how to get there and a Comedian tells me “You Can’t Get There From Here!”.

He don’t know who he’s dealing with!  (You see, “It Happens All The Time” here, as well.)

“I know!”, says an enthusiastic Captain Walkabout (that’s me), “I just PROVED it!”.

The comedian is amused and shows me on a map the Truck Rodeo Stunts that I must accomplish to enter his yard , snake around all the obstacles and leave again.

So, I drive around the wrong way, on the wrong street to the wrong address to find the true destination.  They have re-scheduled me to “three hours from now”.  Fine by me, but I’m going to miss the appointment for their sister installation in Seattle – I inform.  They reschedule me to avoid that and unload their portion of the cargo in time to get to Washington before my 14 hours are up.  After all the long ordeal and a great deal of effort, we will accomplish the deliveries on the appointed day!

As I’m leaving, the Company calls to tell me that they have rescheduled the Seattle appointment for tomorrow.  So much for “a great deal of effort”.

 

Receiver’s Yard, Kent, Washington September 6, 2017

The warehouseman is trying desperately to have someone make a decision on what to do about an extra pallet of stuff.  While it might not sound like much, a half a ton of meat is worth thousands of dollars and is not something you toss off. I have been trapped like a fly  in amber here for three hours after the trailer has emptied.  They have even let me leave the door and park over in the corner.  I have another appointment tomorrow in the morning and Wallula WA remains 243 miles away as my drive clock ism at 6 hours 51 minutes and counting down.  If I can get there tonight, I can look forward to at least 2000 miles.  Not if I have to sit here much longer.

Rest Area Interstate 15 exit 369, Ogden, Utah September 8, 2017

The  delivery was finally accomplished and I arrived at the new shipper just in time to take a ten hour break before starting the journey from Washington to Tennessee.  They had warned that the load was forward-heavy and might be illegal.  I adjusted the trailer wheels to their forward limit and , when scaled, the drive axles passed muster with a few hundred pounds to spare. (33350 vs 34000 limit).  I took up most of those with fuel and when weighed later in Idaho, the scale had me a 33700 on the drives.  Still legal, if only just.  A fat co-driver would have put me over.

The drive out of Washington found the sky still clouded with smoke and the sun reddened noticeably in the middle of the day.

Over

OregonRRedSunEnhanced.jpgSmoky Skies and Red Sun While Departing Washington

I have shamelessly “enhanced” this photo to resemble more my actual impression at the time.  The “real” picture simply did not convey the feeling.

Now it is late and I must sleep for I will be 600 miles East before tomorrow is done.

Over The Road,

Steve

 

In the Path of Totality

SteveTrucker2  Homepage   DreamVacations

In the Path of Totality

Sierra Grande Rest Area Highway 87 Northeast New Mexico  836 from Houston

Walkabout convention:  When you see text like this in italics it means that I am speaking in the moment of the date and place of the subtitle.  When the text is like this I am speaking of another time or place or both.

The eclipse Expedition is underway.  This is the first overnight stop on the way to The Casper Wyoming area.

On Thursday night I had driven 550 miles from the day before from near Kansas City to Denton, Texas which is just North of Fort Worth.  Friday morning, at the Receiver, I pretend to be on break and trying to sleep while checking in, moving the truck, walking back and forth to the office on the opposite corner of the warehouse (~1/2 mile away), paying the lumpers (logistics technicians) and preparing routes for the next load assignment. Not only nearly sleepless, but also payless is this time spent.  By the time I can call in empty, I have three and a half hours in which I can drive to a truck stop and finish the ten hours required before I start another load.  There some two hours of actual sleep, and I could be on the way to a new shipper for a load.

But, I am bound for six days of leave.  All I have to accomplish is to drag this trailer to a truck wash for cleaning.  Then drag the clean trailer to a shipper’s yard and drop it.  From there “bobtail”  to the truck parking where I can collapse, exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally after 56 contiguous days of constant driving.

Meanwhile, the First Mate and Young Son drove from Houston to Dallas to install the latter in the University of Texas at Dallas.  First Mate found me without much trouble and I abandoned the truck as planned.

  • First Mate:      An officer on a ship second in rank only to the captain and responsible for the safety and security of the ship.

She had driven the first 250 miles from Houston to Dallas and I took the next leg of 580 to New Mexico.  From there in the morning to the carefully planned rest area location on Interstate 25 exit 92 in Wyoming.

As the route included Amarillo, there was an obligatory stop at the Cadillac Ranch. I’ll post a photo if I can pry it out of the new phone which currently refuses to give up any jpegs.

LULUCadyRanch.jpg

The First Mate at the Cadillac Ranch – caught red-handed with a spray paint can.

Dwyer Rest Area in Totality I-25 exit 92, Wyoming.  Near the maximum totality August 20,2017

Outside Denver we encountered a traffic jam that I felt was going to defeat all plans.  The First Mate chastised me for my pessimism and it was soon proven unnecessary.  As we approached the target, we checked with the Eclipse App to see that totality was indeed mere miles away.  I knew that if we were in the right place we would find hundreds of fellow Astronomy nerds who also came to the parallel conclusion that this rest area was the optimal choice.  The Nerds did not disappoint.  There were at least a hundred at this early stage.

I had researched this Expedition thoroughly and determined the Dwyer Rest Area near Casper, Wyoming to be optimal from access and weather conditions.  But doubt remained – at least until we had ground truth from the GPS.  We checked with the Eclipse App as we approached and sure enough, the totality duration was near the maximum as we entered the area and parking was already filling up.  By that evening there was not an “official” space left and the Nerds were resorting to Crowded Truck Stop Tactics to find places for their vehicles.  On the actual day of the Eclipse, there must have been thousands of cars, backed up in the parking and lining the driveways back out to the highway.  They doubled and tripled up in the driveways until we were without an exit strategy – trapped for the duration.  What had been a five-minute wait for the Men’s Room had become a half hour. The free WiFi and Cell phone coverage had become paralyzed with over-demand.

Flying J Truck Stop I-25 exit 7, Cheyenne, Wyoming August 21, 2017

There was a carnival atmosphere that pervaded the zone.  It is truly a shame that we had not brought the First Mate’s Arts and Craft merchandise and the tent that she used at Craft shows.

She would have sold out completely.  As it was, there were only a man selling “I was there” t-shirts and one chap selling eclipse glasses for $5.  I told him that he was selling too cheaply – after I bought a pair.

 

To address how expectations were met:

This event was all about eyewitness experience. The cell phone photos before during and after Totality were of dismal quality.  This requires professional grade photography for any accurate depiction of what the observer actually saw.

EclipseInadequatePhotoTotality.jpgAn example of the inadequacy of cell phone photography.  This was at Totality, but you’d never know since the camera “adjusted” the brightness  

I looked up a file photo that pretty much matches the eyewitness impression.  I found some under a search for “Totality” but  they did not show the Corona like this one.

 SolarCorona

Totality, showing the “Solar Corona” – the Sun’s atmosphere

I had to change the search criteria to “Solar Corona” because simply “Corona” got me many versions of the example below:

Corona.jpg

In late partiality, the sharpened shadows were clearly noticed.

The oncoming Moon Shadow was clearly looming in the West, just seconds from Totality.

Once in totality, we were surrounded by sunset-red sky on all sides.  A pan-around montage below:

EclipseRedSkyMontageFull.jpg

Red sky surrounds the scene at Totality

 

The “Diamond Ring” effect was clearly visible at the appropriate stage.  Again, only a “file photo” will do it justice:

EclipseDIamondRing

That red streak and dot “phenomenon” at the top of this picture was also seen at Dwyer Base and commented on by Nerd and Novice alike.

The Solar Corona was prominently visible.

A planet appeared in the darkened sky – it was Venus, about 30 degrees from the Sun.  I had expected Mercury and Mars closer to the Sun but didn’t see them.  A high thin cloud layer may have been responsible for that.

There were birds that flew to roost as they had the night before.

I failed to notice any strange behavior of the pet animals present, but a few human types had some genuinely frenetic reactions. 😉

The Aftermath of the entire event was most strongly evident in the huge traffic jam that started right after Totality.  Most of the Un-Nerds hopped in their cars minutes after and were immediately motionless for two hours or so. We had expected this and planned to wait  patiently until traffic was more reasonable.  Because we had arrived early, we had an up-front parking space and a grassy patch to call our own.  The First Mate took a selfie there that has a stunning lack of age-related facial features.  I was about to  ask her who was that teenager with her in the picture when I recognized my shirt.

EclipseSelfieYoungSteve.jpgIn Partial Eclipse, a Youthful-looking Captain Walkabout and the First Mate.  If this effect is due to eclipse light then let’s bottle the stuff!

 

Passenger Seat – Ford Explorer on the road from Amarillo to Dallas

The First Mate has the helm. In Venezuela, we learned that the First Mate was the logical choice to lead a landing party to negotiate with the Natives, while the Captain lumbered behind with the luggage. So it proved last night when she obtained a bargain price on a Hilton Suite for the night.

There was still traffic congestion on Interstate 25 all the way to Cheyenne where we stopped for luxurious showers at the Flying J Truck Stop at exit 7.  After dinner, the South-bound traffic persisted so we sought anchorage  at the Southeastern Wyoming Tourist Information Center at exit 4.  If you go this way, don’t miss it. There are museum exhibits about the State, brochures, helpful staff and very good complimentary coffee.  This was to be the last in-car overnight of the trip – and good riddance!

Even the next day, there were frequent delays for this Eclipse Traffic Phenomenon, as even those who wisely stayed over a day all returned all at once.  The road from Cheyenne to Denver had been a nine-hour trip and was now down to four.  It is about 100 miles.  So a detour Westward was decided by Captain and Crew.  This took us to the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park and then South to Royal Gorge where we visited the highest suspension bridge in the world.  It no longer carries auto traffic but has been preserved as a (pedestrian) tourist attraction.  There is a cable car that also crosses the Gorge. Both offer awesome views and photo opportunities.

 

RoyalGorgeBridgeFromCC.jpgRoyal  Gorge Bridge as Seen from the Cable Car

RoyalGorgeLuluBridge1.jpgThe First Mate Contemplating Royal Gorge from Mid-bridge.

RoyalGorgeLuluBridgeCablw.jpgFirst Mate Indicating the Cable at the Heart of the Bridge’s Construction

royalGorgeLuluCaarosel1.jpg

The Stunningly Beautiful First Mate Enjoying the Equine Simulator Facility

We had wondered why the approach to the Park featured several deserted tourist shopping centers and blank billboards that should be valuable advertising.  It soon became clear. There was a historical short film at the park that explained its history – including the 2013 forest fire that burned down 48 of the 52 buildings of the Park, destroyed the cable car as well as a funicular railroad that took guests to the bottom of the Gorge and damaged the bridge.

That is also the reason for the shinning new cable cars and the spanking-new buildings.

Outside Raton New Mexico, I saw a deer crossing the road far ahead.  The First Mate regretted missing a photo, but only for an instant, as we suddenly encountered three (count’em, 3)  big buck deer on the road at now-close range.  They all had racks of antlers that were eight to twelve points – this estimated in the few seconds of panic deceleration.  Dogs in the road know damned well what a car horn means but do deer?  In any case, I pounded out a staccato that I later recognized as Morse code for “TSV”.  Your Captain memorized Morse some time ago as a part of his life-long affliction with Nerd-Geek-Trivia Syndrome.  We can assume that this was a message from my Unconscious   – albeit one my conscious mind has yet to fully decode. So far, I reckon the “V” stands for “venison”.  The Ford passed within ten feet of bucks #2 and #3, but escaped collision.

 

Shipper’s Bobtail Parking, Monnet Missouri August 26, 2017

I have returned to the road and the First Mate is in Houston, awaiting the passage of Hurricane Harvey.  It was a good and restful trip and a pleasant interlude in the continuing Walkabout

Over The Road,

Steve

 

Overdue Update

SteveTrucker2  Homepage   DreamVacations

Marooned in a Freight Yard in Chicago August 10, 2017

I have been away from the keyboard for a while. I am currently awaiting a load and have been for nine hours now.   

Yesterday I was deep in the Chicago Permanent Traffic Jam delivering to a warehouse when the call came to clear out to a “safe haven”.  The warehouse yard disallows parking and my 14 hour clock had run out waiting for their “Logistic Service” to unload my  trailer.   So, now I am cast out to seek refuge in a tollway  “Oassis” which is the nearest “safe haven”.  I can run for fifty minutes of “Off Duty Driving” to get there.  It is only ten and a fraction miles from the warehouse – so no sweat, right?  I mean, after all I only have to average a bit more than ten miles per hour to make it in time, right?

Did I mention the Permanent Chicago Traffic Jam?  Yes, I have “Violated hours of service” yet again at the specific direction of my employer.  I don’t know what to think of my Federal driving log record.  I don’t want to point fingers at the employer advice like “…some drivers would violate hour to make the load on time”.  So, I won’t – not now, at least.

No wonder why all the companies are looking for drivers.  The drivers seem to get “used up” and – I expect – “thrown away” at some point.  Again, I won’t go into that now.  Buy the book.

Real Life Interrupts…my load is ready 2 hours early.

Backed In at a Receiver in Rock Rapids, Iowa

The voyage to this place was exceptionally pleasant, after Chicago, of course.  The roads were mostly in good repair and sparsely-traveled.  The weather was fine with occasional light rain.  I enjoyed some crop duster aerobatics and a beautiful sunset.  Upon arrival, I passed the place since it was not where they said it would be and labeled with the wrong name.  Since there was only wilderness beyond, I circled around through town again and pulled into the “wrong” place anyway.  A phone call to Dispatch confirmed that the wrong place was the place to be.

 SunsetRockRapids2

The majesty of the that particular Sunset was lost to photography.  This is a bite out of a horizon-to-horizon spectacle.  It fails dismally to convey the beauty eye-witnessed.

Alas, none of the crop-duster’s performance was captured.  The camera on my phone is all but unusable and I am lucky to get what you see.  At one point he flew across the highway no more than 200 feet in front of the truck, at an altitude less than 100 feet.

“Sliding the Tandems”

I have mentioned before that the load on a big combination vehicle is legally required to certain maximum loading on each axle or pair of axles.  Consider that a fifty-three foot trailer is about the size of a studio apartment and can be loaded in all sorts of odd ways.  That can leave the majority of weight on one of the two clusters of 8 wheels called “tandems”.  Technically, they are dual axle tandems.  To review: The term “dual” means that the wheels come in side-by-side pairs.  The “tandem” part is the front-to-back pairing of dual wheeled axles.  So, if you  are keeping track, a “dual axle tandem” amounts to eight wheels.

The limits for each dual tandem set of axles are as follows:

12000 pounds for the steering axle – those two single wheels in the front of the tractor

34000 pounds for the drive tandem – the other eight wheels on the tractor.

34000 pounds for the trailer tandem – the eight wheels on the trailer.

That last tandem is the one that moves to allow balancing of the load.  After all the references to this in past posts, I thought it would be appropriate to present the idea graphically:

TrailerMontageAbove: This is how  the shippers and receivers want the trailer configured for loading and unloading.  Why? Because heavy forklifts go in and out and need the support of the wheels at the door.

Below:  This would be the configuration for a load that is heavily biased toward the front.  Sliding the trailer tandem forward takes weight off the drive axles.

The transition is accomplished by releasing the tandems (via an air-switch mounted between or in front of the driver’s of the trailer axles) and pushing the trailer back over the sliding attachment.  The driver makes a guess at where exactly the axles should be based on nothing much more than a weight on the paperwork and maybe a glimpse at the cargo before the doors are closed.  After loading, the next destination is always a Certified Scale where the axle weights are determined and adjustments are made before proceeding through the multitude of State Department of Transportation “gotcha” scales that you guys ignore, but to which we drivers pay close attention.  When open, those scales demand Compliance (exactly as demanding and unforgiving as it sounds) from all passing trucks.

 Hiding the “Beached Whale” on a Dead End Street in North Texas – August 14, 2017

After fueling and scaling this new load  (bound for Illinois) there was little drive time and little or nothing in the way of rest areas or truck stops in reach.  The Pilot where I fueled was overflowing, as was the Loves across the highway.  There was a Walmart, but the lack of trucks in their parking lot was a giveaway that they don’t welcome the very drivers that bring them all the stuff they sell. 

The new road behind the store makes a dead end where they hope to finish it someday.  Parking the “Beached Whale” there inconveniences no one and I hope to get away with it for ten hours.  The wake-up alarm tells me that nine and a half hours have now passed.  So, no expulsion from refuge, but it is time to wrap up this segment of the saga

 I really seem to have little time for writing.  I hope this is a temporary adjustment to the new phase of Walkabout and that I will be able to continue the Blog.  This outlet is vital to my sanity.  I have stories that illustrate that statement wherein sanity is lost – or at least not visible on the surface.  I am not proud of those and you will have to buy the book to read that narrative. 😉

 Pilot Interstate 44 exit 72, Springfield Missouri August 15, 2017

Further along on the trip that leads me away from the Eclipse Expedition.  Dispatch has promised to get me to the Dallas rendezvous on time, though.  This should start with a relay tomorrow that exchanges my Illinois-bound load for one that will wind up in Kansas.

It turned out that there were “no truck parking” signs on that dead-end road in north Texas.  They were over 500 yards from where I parked (May it please the court!) and completely unjustified, given the remote emptiness of the location.  Again, I was inconveniencing no one.  But I remember a car that crept by in the Walmart lot and stopped near my location.  I suspect it was some busybody collecting my DOT number to make a complaint.

As we have discussed before, there is a parking problem in the Trucking Industry that is spreading from the East Coast and getting worse.  The volume of freight in the US has increased with the trend away from “brick and mortar” shopping and toward internet shopping.  All that stuff y’all are ordering online has to be delivered, you know – and that means more trucks on the road.  Yes, truck stops provide parking, but that is overwhelmed at busy hours and spills out onto the streets.  Many communities have taken offence and are antagonistic to the gentle giants that bring all the “stuff”.  A few have been welcoming.

Bold Prediction from Captain Walkabout

We just skirted this subject, so I will walk back and “dive in the lake” – so to speak.

The economy is beginning to expand with what will be a Renaissance of Prosperity in the next ten years.  You may wonder what I am talking about and I will write more about it soon.  Suffice it to say that the new abundance of petroleum production in the United States (the one that that made my career in Seismic Exploration obsolete) will soon – and quietly – make us the new “Power That Be” in the Energy Sector.

I can’t be the only one who sees this coming, but I don’t see anyone else writing much about it.

Over The Road,

Steve

The Eclipse Expedition

 

SteveTrucker2  Homepage   DreamVacations

Road Ranger Truck Stop, Rochelle, Illinois July 29, 2017

I apologize that I  have been extremely busy with the “task-at-hand” of interstate logistics operations and have not written in a while.  In what few spare moments I have had, there have  also been thoughts and effort put into preparation for my first break in two months, planned for August 19 through the 25th.  I regret that I will not be in Houston at that time to visit with those of my readers who abide there.  Instead, yet more traveling lies in wait.  Fortunately, the First Mate will be joining me.  It took a lot of convincing to get her to agree to a long road trip, with few comforts.  So, for those of you who see here often – just make like it’s a Big Deal that you would love to have the opportunity to attend, OK? 😉

LuluCover

Captain Walkabout’s First Mate

I have been fascinated by Astronomy from an early age.  In the early Sixties, the library at Louisa May Alcott Elementary School was my first source of literature about stars and planets. In 1980 I graduated from the University of Texas with a Bachelor’s Degree in Astronomy.  In between, I read most everything I could find on the subject.

While Stars had their own fascination, I desired nothing more than to study the Solar System Planets.  I had wanted to be Carl Sagan – but they already had one.  By the time there was an opening in the position, that energetic upstart (and admittedly, talented) Neil DeGrass Tyson beat me to the job.

As I have discussed elsewhere, my career was to be in Geophysics. I remind you that it is still the study of Planets.  We just happen to be standing on the planet I studied for all those years.  I was fortunate to attend the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference for many years on behalf PGS of my seismic exploration company employer.   I will admit, it took some considerable lobbying on my part to get them to sponsor me.  Even then, I took vacation time and paid my own room and board.

This narrative reminds me that I wrote an article for the PGS newsletter about comets.  I will post that here, soon.

Solar Eclipses

One of the first things a student learns about is eclipses, when the shadow of the moon falls upon the Earth and covers the Sun completely.  This happens roughly every 18 months – somewhere on Earth.

“So, what’s the big deal?”, You may ask.

The opportunity to witness a total solar eclipse is a rare only because the shadow falls on a very small fraction of the Earth’s surface and you have to be there to see it happen.  Most people live their entire lives without witnessing such an event.  I know, because I am one.  There was a total eclipse across the Norther parts of the US in 1979 that I missed because I had injured my back at work and I did not have any vacation time to spare.  Seeing TV coverage (while muscle-relaxed in a recliner) on TV just ain’t the same.  All the people in the live broadcast were gasping and shouting in delight.  What inspired those reactions simply did not make it through the screen.  Apparently, you have to be there – in person.

There is an opportunity in the US to view such an eclipse August 21, 2017.  As the Earth rotates under the moons shadow it make a “path of totality.  The link below is to a short video of this  celestial situation:

https://youtu.be/lF5QlckmZhs

The path can be shown on a map.   You will see such a graphic below.

Totality_wholeUSPath of Totality for the August 21 Solar Eclipse.

Inside the shaded path, the Sun winds up completely covered.  The black dot over by Nashville is where the totality happens at local noon.  The center of the  path – marked with a blue line – is where the time of totality is at a maximum of about two and a half minutes.  Away from the blue line but still in the shaded zone, the totality is briefer.  For viewers anywhere outside this path, there is only a partial eclipse – a bit of full sunlight will still be about.

I can’t tell you much about totality, because I have never seen it.  But I have been near partial eclipses.  The dim light is perceptible but not like an overcast day, in fact the shadows are sharper and more distinct.  There is an eerie quality to the light that I cannot quite describe –  not just in the sky, but reflected by everything around you.  Any viewing of the Sun itself must be through protective glasses.  Regular sunglasses are inadequate.  Special “eclipse glasses” are available for purchase and advertised everywhere.  Here is the key to their use:

Never look directly at the sun without the Eclipse Glasses on.  Look away from the Sun, put the glasses on then look at the partial eclipse.  This condition is described as FILTERS ON.

For totality, I have only what I have read.  There should be an effect of bands of dark and light caused by interference fringes as the Sun becomes a sliver at the edge of the Moon. Just at the beginning of totality, there is an effect called “Baily’s Beads” around the edges of the moon where remnants of the now dwindled light from the Sun is shining down through valleys on the edge of the moon.  This will become a “Diamond Ring” with a single bright spot.  It is after this event that the eclipse can be viewed with the naked eye.  Not BEFORE and not AFTER totality.  The same applies to cameras!

EclipseDIamondRing

They tell me that at totality, planets will become visible in what had been the daytime sky.  Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter should be there to see, if you know where to look.  The Sun’s atmosphere, the “Corona” is obvious and extensive.  The local wildlife (as well as the local people) will have strange reactions to the sudden darkness. The darkness is local.  Will I see a reddened horizon by the light from beyond totality?  I simply don’t know.

Descriptions and pictures here:

https://eclipse.aas.org/eclipse-america/eclipse-experience

 

So – BEFORE totality:

FILTERS ON

Partial eclipse views

Bailey’s Beads

Diamond Ring

TOTALITY – FILTERS OFF

Views and photos of Sun’s Corona behind the full moon

Planets in the daytime sky

Interference fringes

Red horizon?

Animal / Human Reactions.  Temperature. Wind.

First sign of Diamond Ring returning

FILTERS ON

Reverse sequence

I said it is not like an overcast day.  That is, of course unless it IS an overcast day.  The weather is the main problem associated with eclipse viewing.  Weather is what makes this a moving target.  Statistically, the fewest cloudy days are to be found in Nebraska and Wyoming portion of the path and that is where we should aim.  I had it in mind to start straight North from Dallas to Kansas City.  But, now I think it might be better to head for that stretch of Interstate 27 in Wyoming that I have had my eye on.

EclipseDallas-to-CasperWYShade.pngThe route to Wyoming and Totality – to be followed by Your Captain and the First Mate

It might be a crowd scene.  People will be coming from all over the world to see this, but there is also a relatively large area where it will be visible and I would think that the crowds would be in the more urban areas. I don’t really know what to expect in that regard.

I will write about it, of course.

Ex Scientia, Veritas

Steve

Zelda, Nero and the Van Dyke

SteveTrucker2  Homepage   DreamVacations

Flying J Truck Stop Interstate 435 and Front Street, Kansas City, Missouri July 11, 2017

This particular load had two stops, the first near Kansas City and the next in Oklahoma.

Routine stuff. It starts with one of those Meat Load Vigils where the driver drops an empty trailer and goes to hide in a truck stop until the meat is “produced” and loaded on trailer.  Only occasionally does it turn out to be the same trailer. The plant is in Emporia Kansas and the trucks stop was a Flying J just a few miles away. Those drivers who arrive “bobtail” (tractor only) are expected to yield the big truck spaces to complete tractor/trailer rigs and unless there is a designated “bobtail area” – they hide in the corners where a big rig can’t park.  This place had all the corners taken but I saw some other bobtails in the restaurant parking, so I joined them.  This was early in the morning – about 3 AM (0300).  This required exiting to the highway, briefly to get to the separated parking lot.

The first order of business is to get some sleep and I awoke to find truck the only one in the lot now full of breakfast goers in conventional automobiles (four-wheelers).  I felt a bit out-of-place.  When walking back and forth from the “J” I had the distinct feeling that the breakfast-bound  parents were pointing me out to their children and whispering, “That’s what will happen to you if you don’t do well in college”.  Rejoining the regular parking would have required a short road trip back to the truck entrance and I did not yet have drive time

Considerable preparation goes into these journeys but a swap message comes in and all the best laid plans are discarded.  Around midnight I pull into a truck stop and find my counterpart.  We exchange paperwork and drop trailers.  Each takes the other load and departs or stays for a break.

My new assignment takes me to a Fed Ex yard.  You may have seen that Fed Ex trucks tow two shorter trailers.  That is reflected in their yard where all the spaces are too short for my ‘53 footer.’  Once I leave them my trailer, the task is to go find a Blue Company empty.  It is a really big yard and there was one (1) appropriate unit.

From there I drop the empty – again in the wee hours of the morning – in a dark empty lot.  My next load is one of the four trailers in the same yard.  None of their paperwork matches my assigned destination so I call in to straighten it out.  They pass on a trailer number that has papers for Sam’s Club.  I am to take it to a large freight company yard.

Arriving at the Freight Yard gives me a twilight-zone feeling.  Out of place. The staff has no idea why I am here and the papers don’t give a clue.  They send me to receiving and those guys are equally mystified.  I return to my truck to call in (late on a Sunday night).  Dispatch tells me it will have to wait until Customer Service reps show up for work at 0800.  The Freight Company has already told me I can’t park here.

In one of those unbelievable coincidences, the truck refuses to start.  This has been a problem before, but repeated attempts finally resulted in success.  Not this time.  After about 50 tries, I realize that if the truck starts, I am out on the street without drive time.  Time to stop trying, is it not?

The “Visit” comes around 0800.  A very polite fellow named Greg tells me that I cannot stay.  I show him the now-determined-as-worthless paperwork to no avail.  And then my Trump Card – the truck won’t start and I have called for road service.  I reckon a mechanic will be here in two hours.  Greg is resigned to the logic of the situation.  I got the impression he was happy to have a reason not to evict the poor old man who has lost his way. 😉

To conclude this saga:  The Company sent the valid paperwork, the Freight Yard people suddenly wanted my cargo and the mechanic showed up to fix the truck.  All’s well that ends well.

 

Pilot Travel Center #29, Interstate 69, exit 357, Fremont, Indiana July 16, 2017

I have just finished the first two legs of a three-day episode involving deliveries to Pennsylvania and Maryland.  I find that I have accumulated ten and one-half shower credits.  I am saving up for the Solar Eclipse trip.  At that time, my “Co-driver” and I will be staying in campgrounds and rest areas because all the hotels in the Eclipse Zone have been booked for months. Shower credits will be most welcome.

There is a place called Uranus in Missouri.  There is a fudge factory there.  Yes, really.  They make a lot of jokes about the name of the Seventh Planet.

Late at night, exhausted and in desperate need of sleep.  My route is state highways with no rest areas and no truck stops.  Fortunately, it is Three AM on a Saturday morning and Running Fox elementary School is closed.   They have a very nice looping driveway that allows the whole beached whale to enter and leave without any tedious reversing.  The night before, I found a Kohl’s parking lot in similar condition.  I get extremely fatigued in the hours before dawn.  A nap of thirty minutes is the solution.  Many times, only a safe parking place stands between me and Blessed Sleep, but innovation frequently saves the night.

To Saint Louis for beer!  43, 854 pounds of twelve-packs stacked high on pallets and kegs behind that.  This ain’t beef.  I don’t get the damaged boxes for BBQ or to give to the Salvation Army.

Water, water, everywhere, but nary a drop to drink!  😉

The beer was delivered to Mason City, Iowa.

I am growing back the “Van Dyke” That is a style of beard – no reference to the multitalented Dick Van Dyke, nor to manly Lesbians or diagonal wire cutters.  Please see picture below:

CaptainNewVanDykeRegenerated Facial Hair

 

Exxon Station across from Receiver, Robesonia, Pennsylvania July 17, 2017

 

One of the pleasant surprises of the new reality of this second phase of Walkabout has been “Line 5” of the driver’s logs.  Until now, there were four lines:  1.Off-Duty, 2.Sleeper Bunk, 3.Driving and 4.On-Duty-Not-Driving.  One can only legitimately drive under line three.  One can move the truck slowly and by short distances (i.e., “creep”) under lines 1 and 4.  Of course, driving while in Sleeper Bunk should be impossible -right?  

The result was to trap drivers in shippers’ and receivers’ properties as their Duty Clock expired.  They might still have many hours of drive time, but because the clock is now past 14 hours from the first On Duty/Drive time entry of the day, the drivers are not street legal.

Along comes line 5 (“Off Duty Driving”), which means I have no drive or duty time, but I can drive to a truck stop, if my trailer is empty and I can make it in 50 minutes.  This relieves a Great Federal Regulation Pain, liberates shippers and receivers of a burdensome inventory of idle trucks and is a most welcome innovation.

But, the “olly-olly oxen free*” Line Five Get out of Jail Free Card does not allow me to travel to a truck stop except when empty.  Today I have a second cargo remaining in the trailer that I will deliver at 3 AM tomorrow in Maryland.  The truck stop must remain a distant dream.  I could only creep across the street to this refuge and take one of the last two parking spots.

* https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-origin-of-the-phrase-olly-olly-oxen-free

 

To get to Pennsylvania involved a 570 tightly-scheduled trip from Fremont, Illinois.  The Navigation computer I have tentatively named “Zelda” after Zelda Gilroy, the Wannabe girlfriend of Dobie Gillis.   If you don’t know who I am talking about, don’t worry, I’ll educate you.

Zelda Gilroy relentlessly pursued Dobie Gillis in The Many loves of Dobie Gillis, a 1950’s/60’s situation comedy on black and white TV.  She was portrayed by the clever and energetic comedienne Sheila James Kuehl.  While Dobie mooned over the prom queens and attempted to ignore her, Zelda was around every corner and relentlessly dedicated to making Dobie a better man and her own.

Moody teenager Dobie Gillis was played by Duane Hickman.  His best friend was a beatnik named Maynard G. Krebs played by Bob Denver (later to portray Gilligan, of Island fame).

Zelda

Zelda

Zelda had a “power” over Dobie.  When she made the crinkly-nose expression (depicted above), Dobie reflexively responded with the same and exclaimed “Zelda!” in protest.  There were appropriate sound effects.  She is looking up because Sheila stood only four-foot-ten and looked up to everyone else in the cast.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0473861/

My computerized Zelda steadfastly refused to consider the Ohio turnpike and wanted me to travel on State highways, that pass through small towns where speed limits drop as low as 20 miles per hour.  I tried to convince her that this would have me late to the show and might pull me up short, if I could not get there in 11 hours.

Clearly, someone has told Zelda that toll roads are bad.  Try as I might I could not click her icons to convince her otherwise.  So, the first half of the trip was spent ignoring Zelda’s insistence to leave the Turnpike at every last exit until the road turned to plain-old non-toll Interstate 80, where I then paid attention to Zelda’s advice.

The trip was uneventful and mostly pleasant (despite Zelda’s harangue) until near the end.  Then ten hours of constant driving had promoted Exhaustion to the Commanding Officer.

First was a construction zone where the signs said – in no uncertain terms:

“Trucks over 21,000 lbs gross vehicle weight STOP ahead!”

My vehicle currently weighed 74,560 pounds, so  I pulled in behind the long queue of stopped vehicles and waited while calling Dispatch for advice.  The only recourse was for me to call 511 (local traffic info).  Him (i.e., “Dispatch”) calling would be useless since he would get advice about Iowa and Nebraska.  The “zelda” at 511 had no notices of trucks falling through bridges, despite the fact that a few rigs had passed the queue of trucks.  Some of those might have been empty.  But even empty these rigs weigh over 30,000 pounds.

Finally I creep around the waiting trucks to the front of the queue, expecting horns and CB curses – neither of which happened.  The CB had been eerily quiet because (it turns out) all the rigs in the queue were not waiting – they were parked.  A sign at the front tells me to use a lower gear for the downhill side of the route in front.  The speed limit signs were 20 mph – a throwback to the days before engine brakes when every truck had to creep down hills or set their brakes on fire and plunge down to a fiery death.  These were roundly ignored and ridiculed by all concerned.

Right at the final approach, was a 15 mile stretch of winding, hilly, two-lane, shoulder-less road through upper-class rural bedroom communities with narrow bridges, abrupt 90 degree turns and a tailgater – detectable only by the headlight “aura” chasing the trailer.   Just the thing for a third-stage fatigued 62-year-old man to deal with.

PennNarrowRoadThe stretch of narrow, winding, shoulder-less road.  This straightaway was the only part where photography would not be dangerous.

But, I got there, on time and intact.  I delivered the partial load and crept across to get here.  All with the goal to tell thee!

Maryland Welcome Center, I95 exit 37 – July 18, 2017

The second leg of the East Coast trip is now complete.  There are no Pilot or Flying J truck stops where I have shower credits so, I have chosen a rest area where at least there is a bit of greenery in which to stroll about,   That in not unimportant because from where I sit typing, I can reach the refrigerator for food and water or fall backward into the bunk and sleep.  There is no reason to leave the comfort of the office – except for…you know.  I could easily become Nero- Wolf-like without somewhere to go.

Nero Wolfe was a fictional detective who never left his house and relied upon “legman” Archie to do the “outside” thing.

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

 

Rest areas have the added advantage of water fountains where I can fill my canteens (AKA, empty V8 bottles).  Back in the days of Purgatory (previous employer) I calculated that, given the price of bottled water and the time to fill the bottles, this activity saved me more per hour than I earned driving.  Truck stops – and some California rest areas) do not have water fountains because they sell bottled water.

Pilot, Interstate 71 exit 204, Akron, Ohio July 19, 2017

The Ship is now “staged” for a pickup near Akron today and delivery to Illinois – just South of Chicago.  Noon had been the appointment, but now it is delayed until 1700.  I have had a good rest and will launch at 15:30 to fuel and get the 25 miles to the shipper.  From there it is a straight six-hour drive.

That is why I have some time to wrap up, edit and illustrate this post – which I will do with no further discussion.

Over The Road,

Steve

Calcium Carbonate and Amarillo

  SteveTrucker2  Homepage   DreamVacations

Flying J Truck Stop I35 exit 127, Emporia, KS July 9, 2017

 The trips are shorter now and I have to look hard for the thought-provoking aspects.  I would rather make journeys of three or four days, but now I am lucky to get two days from a load.  It does pay much better, however. Some sacrifices have to be made for financial concerns.  Life does that to you.

That is not to say that that this new stage of Walkabout does not have interesting aspects.  A recent destination was Quincy, Illinois where Geology and Mining give rise to industrial real estate opportunities.  Quincy is home to a calcium carbonate operation that has already created 600 acres of naturally climate controlled area and is busy making more:

“Huber each year mines about 600,000 tons of calcium carbonate, which is a filler used in floor tile, drywall compound, paint, plastic and other products. This creates about eight acres of new underground caverns a year.”

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1993-12-27/business/9312270041_1_huber-mining-storage

CaveDock.jpgBeneath Quincy, Illinois

At first glance, this is just another truck in another loading dock.  Those lights above are not on an awning, however. Let me walk over to the truck and look back this way.

CaveLocalA view of the local surroundings.

 Those great pillars are to keep the cavity from collapsing and allow mining to continue.  The side-effect is all this empty space that stays at temperatures of 48 to 60 degrees F (9-16C).  This is optimal for cold storage facilities and the construction amounts to a bit more mining with attention to detail. The climate above in Quincy may range from 0 to 95 F (-18 to 35C) during the year.

I did not get a glance at the offices, but had to remain “outside” by my truck while unloading took place.  Another photo on the way out gives an idea of the extent of this facility.  I have included an eighteen-wheeler for scale.  Fortunately, they are all not rare around the place.  The inset at lower right shows what they do to keep us from wandering around lost in the less traveled parts of the mine.  The blocks are, of course, more calcium carbonate “ore” stacked in an “airbrick” pattern.  Construction  Architecture in this venue must be a lot of fun, since you can pretty much carve out custom rooms and make up your own parts.

CaveDrivewayThe exit view.  The driver’s side elliptical mirror intrudes in the photo.  You might as well get used to that. 😉

Like most everything, there is a Youtube video of this.  Unless I am mistaken, the destination of this trucker was the same as mine*.  At least, that truck pulling out near the end was labeled with my customers name.

https://youtu.be/V31JgHWviAs

*No lame pun intended

________________________

Near Amarillo, Texas along Interstate 40 there is a stretch of prairie-turned-farmland that has few natural distinguishing features.  There are some man-made sights that stand out, however.  One has been discussed already in  Route 66 and the Cadillac Ranch

WaterTowerMont.png

Left:  The closest photo was inconveniently near another object of visual interest, so I resorted to the tricks of lazy newsmen – I looked up a file photo – Right.

Photo Credit: http://weirdus.com/states/texas/roadside_oddities/britten_leaning_water_tower/index.php

It is called “The Leaning Tower of  Groom Texas” and it has attracted attention for many decades.  Stories about why the tower is leaning range from shoddy construction to a passing tornado to an earthquake.

The true cause is a bit of genius marketing by Ralph Britten.  He bought the tower (for a scrap price) and moved it here.  The ten degree tilt is intentional.  It looks like more, does it not?  There are no guy wires, the structure is balanced (they say) on the two buried legs and the other two are actually off the ground.    I would be willing to bet a small amount that there is a third leg hidden in that white “downpipe”, or that the pipe itself is load-bearing.  But I have not found any documentation to that effect. The only date I have found for Britten’s assembly of the structure is “somewhere around 1980”.

And why would Ralph want a tilted tower?  Because the breathless motorists who pulled off of Interstate 40 to see this pending disaster found themselves in the parking lot of Britten’s Truck Stop and Restaurant. It inspired a lot of Citizens Band Radio traffic among truckers as well.  This was quite successful as a marketing tool for about five years or so and survived the fire that destroyed the Truck Stop.

There are some who wryly observe that it’s a shame there was no water in the tower to fight the fire.  In fact, the tower’s tank has just the right amount of water to put the center of gravity directly over the two (or possibly three) grounded legs.  So, any use of the water for firefighting might have endangered the tower.

The tower now stands alone in an empty field, but still attracts attention to this day.

http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-leaning-tower-of-groom-texas

Waiting for a door in Olathe, Kansas receiver’s parking July 10, 2017 0500

I am here hours early and fortunately allowed to park and wait.  Another trucker who arrived at about 0200 was not so lucky as parking permission starts at 0400. He was cast out on the street until he returned near 0500.  No two receivers have  the same policies about such things and procedures vary and change without notice.  Putting up signs to explain things is rare and the few that exist are sometimes vague, misleading or obsolete.  So, my current strategy is to pull in to the guard shack and await instructions.  The worst they can do is make me turn around and leave.  I can do that.  If they wanted something else, they would put up a sign – now, wouldn’t they? 😉

There is yet another Amarillo-area Public Art Project that echoes the Cadillac Ranch.  It is composed of five Volkswagen “beetles”  and, just like it’s older sibling to the East, the units are heavily “tagged” with graffiti (“graffiti” is the plural of “graffito”, by the way).  I caught a glimpse of this from I-40 (exit 86, as it turns out) about 14 months ago,  back in my training days, but I have yet to see it again despite many passes on I-40.  I was a passenger at the time (that is to say, the Instructor was at the wheel) so I had plenty of idle attention to turn to roadside wonders, back then This also seems to be on an abandoned property, so approach it at your own risk.

 

Photo Credit:  http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/6767

Over The Road,

Steve