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
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
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.
“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.
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.
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
The 25 hour lay-over completed, I drove to the final delivery, checked in for a door and backed in to be unloaded. This was a well-laid-out docking area that had widely spaced doors and a long run-out in front of mine. That did not stop a fellow trucker from parking across my long run-out to make it another high-angle parking situation. So, again the ordeal of maneuvering the trailer backwards into a gap. This time the gap was a bit bigger, though. And, I seem to be getting better at this.
I thought of how to explain this and came up with the following analogy:
Line up two dominoes with a gap between them that will fit a third domino with a small gap on either side. See the diagram above.
Once you have the “Start” laid out, put one hand in your pocket, then push on the center of the end of the third domino where you see the red diamond shape. No fair pushing on the corners! Now push that third domino until you have the “End” configuration. If the moving domino touches the others, you lose. It would, of course be much easier if your moving domino were lined up – parallel and straight in front of the gap. That is what I mean by “long run-out”. Imagine doing this exercise with three hundred-thousand dollar vehicles (more with cargo), looking back at the trailer through the driver’s window and in mirrors. This from70 feet away.
I have to do that about once every two or three days.
Anyway, I got to the receiver, sent that status to the company and
backed in to be unloaded. They unload the trailer by driving a heavy
forklift into it and picking up a multi-ton stack of cargo and exiting.
They do this hundreds of times a day and have gotten very fast at it.
The result is an earthquake-like shaking in the cab for an hour or two.
But, in the meantime the long-awaited message will come that will tell
me to pick up a load and take it to Texas and home.
Only, the message says go pick up a load and take it to Illinois –
delivering on the second day of my pre-planned and approved home time
(only Illinois ain’t my home). I put in for this break over a month ago
and while I was in Purgatory (not the ski resort) they asked again and I
requested the same and they approved it again. Must be a mistake,
“Well,” they say,. “It will be easy to get you a load out of Illinois to Texas”.
If you read my previous post, you know that I have just come from Chicago.
That’s in Illinois.
I went there from Maryland because they said it would be easy to
route me home from there. Then they said, they had nothing from there
and I could get a load home from Maryland. So, I went to Maryland.
Somebody is being less than honest with me.
The load assignment has an acceptance auto-reply where I answer “yes”
to the assignment and have an option to comment. I answered “NO” and
commented the story I just told you. Some severe editing was needed to
get that into the two line comment field. Then I went looking for a
place to park. But, this too shall pass and what else could go wrong?
Parking for big trucks is a critical problem in this part of the
country, as my previous post mentioned. There was a truck stop, nearby
and it was one of those where you pay to park, but “any port in a
storm”, as they say. There was not one space left open. I left. The
first two hours in this place are free (and darned well worth every
penny, as it turns out) so, I didn’t have to pay to be turned away. I
drove toward the nearest stop I could find on the “apps” which is fifty
miles away. There is no real hope that they will have space, but what
else can I do?
Along the route (North on Interstate 95), there is a rest stop with
truck parking, fuel and a big food court called Maryland House. I’ve
been there before. It is hidden from the road and requires a left exit
where the left lane is forbidden to trucks. Truckers often take their 30
minute breaks at places like this, so there was a chance I could find a
recently-vacated space. I did and I am there now.
It is four AM and there is still no word on my load home. I will
probably be denied my home break. But, it will be denied by a human
being on the phone – not by anonymous satellite message. There are
certain levels of decency that I expect out of life and this is one of
Then, I’ll go back to Illinois. But I will remember this shabby treatment for a good long while.
November 6, 2016 (Transferred from the WordPress site)
Pilot Truck Stop # 316, I-70 exit 276A, Denver, Colorado
All my plotting for a “day tour” in Chicago had been blasted to tiny bits by events as they materialized from the continuum. Happenstance had its way with my plans which now lay in ruins. Well, to paraphrase a nameless stereotypical Mexican Banditin the Movie “Treasure of the Sierra Madre”, “Plans? We don’ need no estinking plans!”.
This current location has a train station less than a mile away. Yesterday, I found out the hard way that it might as well be on the moon if walking there is contemplated. A stroll yesterday revealed that there is a big ugly gash in the Earth and an excessively large grain elevator that separates the station from the truck stop and the rest of the world. I could see busses and trains in the distance, but the route to get there was not forthcoming. I figured out that it might be possible to walk down the elevated freeway to get there. I am not so inclined.
Above: This view from Google Maps (obviously an older photo) shows the area where the new station was built in red. The Gash is pointed out by the blue arrow, the Elevator by the Yellow and the location of the truck stop is off stage to the left.
There is a bus stop diagonally across the street from the truck stop. It is the number 44 bus that takes me around the gash and the elevator to the shiny new station. The bus stop ain’t much to look at (below).
Above: The bus stop in question.
Above: The station’s newness is obvious. The grain elevator is seen. The Rocky Mountains loom in the distance.
The train took me to Union Station in Downtown Denver. From there we find free shuttles down Broadway that end at the Capitol.
Above: The Capitol Building of the State of Colorado. It is currently under construction. The cost and delays are a subject of local dispute.
Above: The Capitol Dome from within.
Rest Area at I70 exit 224, Kansas.
A new load assignment came in to interrupt the story. Deadhead to Dodge City Kansas for a load of beef to bring to Omnivores in Maryland.
Denver also has a nice big city park where the Zoo and Museum of Nature and Science are found. Both are worthy of a visit, if I had the time – even at the steep prices of admission. As it was, I wandered around and got some good photos. Remember, this is about the journey, not the destination. The park is reached by a bus near the Capitol to Colorado Avenue.
Above: Wolf statues in front of the Museum. These are obviously not “hands-off” art since there is a sign warning that the brass wolves may be really hot. 😉
Above: A Mastadon statue based on some remains found at a construction site. Truly a Magnificent Work, in my humble opinion. The scale is not obvious and I had no one to put in the picture for reference. I estimate the tip of the animal’s trunk to be 18 feet off the ground.
Above: A view of the park’s lake and the Denver skyline with the Rocky Mountains in the distance.
About this time I got nervous about leaving the truck, so I went back to check on it. A bus takes me North to that same rail station and I go back to the truck stop on that same #44 route. As I arrived, there was a moment when I did not see the truck. It was hiding behind a new arrival. See it there behind the Square-nose Peterbilt?
Above: My truck is there, hiding behind the Peterbilt, just to scare me. By coincidence there is a Freightliner in the foreground and a Volvo past my Kenworth. Those four represent maybe 90% of the trucks on the road in the US.
I ventured out in the afternoon to see the airport. I could have cut the $9 day pass to $4.50 without the airport, but that particular Denver facility has a storied history ofcost overruns and a baggage systemthat would make a Rube Goldberg machine look like the picture of efficiency. It was so horrifically bad that the airport sat idle for 16 months after its completion and scholarly studiesandanalyses by consulting firms were done analyzing this massive failure. The airport and baggage system costs ballooned from$700 Million to something like FIVE BILLION DOLLARS.
All this, with pictures after the next leg of the Kansas to Maryland Beef Transit. I have to sleep now. Life is keeping me busy, and unexpectedly happy.
Flying J Truck Stop, I-70 near Effingham, Illinois
That same bus gets me back to the train station and I am whisked off in the out -of-town direction. Before long, the cityscape disappears and the countryside ensues.
Above: On the train to DIA. East of Denver, the landscape is not what comes to mind when “Colorado” is uttered.
Above: This construction of telephone poles on stilts greets new arrivals at the airport. There is mirror image of this on the other side. Their artistic significance was not immediately obvious.
Above: The Westin Hotel, left makes a bold architectural statement.
Above: Across from the Hotel the airport terminal is another statement that clashes dramatically with the Westin.
Note the aluminum “grassland” in the foreground.
Above: The Aluminum Alfalfa Field (I made that name up) is a wind-driven mobile sculpture. Its charm was mostly lost on this windless day. While I can imagine that interesting waves and ripples would be generated, I am an old techno-nerd. I suspect that the people – especially young folks – now are so jaded by Computer Generated Images that they are not impressed by such things.
Above: The telephone poles viewed from the upper level, outside the hotel
I had plans to see other lines on the transit system, but it was getting late in the day and I would need to roll to Kansas at 5:00 AM. I will no doubt be back this way and there is a line to Golden that might be interesting.
The weather was perfect for an entertaining and interesting day. Even though I am marooned again for a day and a half, instead of boredom and depression I find contentment and purpose in a different sort of journey.
I said at the beginning of this Walkabout that did not know what I would learn.
Here is the first conclusive lesson. It requires some explanation:
I have traveled a great deal in my life and I have always found it compelling and satisfying. Looking back – I had not always sought out occupations that involved travel, but they seemed to have found me nonetheless. When I found myself trapped in an office job in a windowless gang-office in Houston, I found a way to transfer to a part of the same company that works in the field (jungle, desert, mountains) in South America. There was no “transfer policy” in said company, as they did not expect people to want to move to the field. It seems that “normal people” wanted to come in from the field and work in an office. If you have not discovered this independently by reading my posts, let me just admit right now that I am not “normal”.
There were many reasons for my intention to go and work abroad, none of which had anything to do with travelling. The most important result of that decision is my wife, who I met in Caracas, Venezuela (she is from Peru) and the family we have raised. Beyond that, I found that travelling back and forth to the field was the most pleasant and interesting time, despite the sadness of leaving the family and the joy of returning.
Having said that, this latest change in my life has made clear what I knew only vaguely before. That is: I am most content and my soul most at ease when traveling. With the exception of my family, the destination is just the excuse for the journey.
Update: I-70 Tollway Travel Plaza @ Mile marker 112 in Pensylvainia.
My journey from Denver to Maryland has thus far passed through Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. I noticed Trump signs early on and kept a rough count. There were about twenty seven (27), some in every state. The largest was a billboard about 20 feet across. The smallest was a custom made sign in West Virginia that said “Trump Digs Coal”.
As you may know, West Virginia coal miners have been begarded into poverty by a cruel and hateful Obama who is running coal companies out of business for no good reason*. Hillary promises to do the same.
There were no Hillary signs to be seen – anywhere..
*Don’t argue with me, I know what I am talking about. 🙂
any condition or place of temporary punishment, suffering, expiation, or the like.
I am now “on the Yard” at company headquarters. I have dropped my trailer and been assigned another truck. This one is a real mystery. A Kenworth T680 built in November, 2013. It looks almost new, drives and shifts smoothly and is “clean as a whistle”. The odometer reads 35,000 miles. And that would seem impossible.
This truck has been “on the fleet” for two and a half years and should have at least five or six times that mileage. The Peterbilt is just about that old and it has 385,000 miles. While I am lucky to have such a low mileage vehicle, I can’t help but wonder what the story is behind this machine. One thing that is completely out of place in this story is the condition of the forward drive axle. Its tires are nearly at the legal minimum for tread depth, while its brother’s tires to the rear are almost new. I have requested that these tires (the baldies, that is) be replaced.
I pull up the Kenworth “across the bow” of the Peterbilt to transfer the refrigerator first and then all my other possessions. It can’t stay there long, but I don’t need long. Next I swap the Peterbilt out of the “good” parking spot and put the Kenworth into same. I drove the Peterbilt over by the garage where I would turn in the keys in the morning. Then, I collapsed in the Kenworth because what I just described was a lot of work. Fortunately, the Kenworth has a working Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) that keeps the cabin habitable through the hot Dallas evening.
Above: 2014 model Kenworth T680 – 12946. Note the windshield shade with cool-looking beach scene. It reflects the heat , yes. But more importantly, it marks my truck so I can find it later. Please see “Tractor Row” below for explanation.
Above: “Tractor Row” The one with the cool-looking beach scene in the windshield is mine.
Above: The Kenworth has a desk that does not look like a piece of plywood.
Above: Purgatory’s Backside. The small building in the foreground has the driver’s lounge where trucker stereotypes are preserved by drivers leaving their empty soda bottles and pizza cartons strewn across the tables and floors while the trash cans in the room remain empty.
In the morning, I have lots to do before I am allowed to leave the Yard. These activities include safety lectures and dealing with “compliance” (recordkeeping to comply with federal regulations on driving time – it’s complicated). Then I need my Driver Manager’s approval and that of “Central Clearance” – they check all my registrations and paperwork. I cannot get my truck out the gate without all these items ticked off the list. And those tires I requested apparently are still being manufactured and will be shipped out by mule train sometime next week.
Fact is, I don’t have a load, yet anyway, so there is nowhere to go. And, it does not matter anyway because all the people who can provide “approval” for my departure have gone home at noon, today, Saturday. They will not return until Monday when dozens of other drivers – trapped in Purgatory with me – will compete to get their clearance. So, another two days (minimum) of no income. This has become a recurring theme in the “high-paying-job-as-a-professional-truck-driver”.
I have been instructed to report to the “Yard” in Dallas and turn in my truck. It has apparently been sold. I asked how long it might take to get a new truck. The answer was “Depends”. I should have replied, “No, Fruit of the Loom – briefs” but my comedic reflexes are slow these days.
The last time I was issued a truck, I expected a worst case scenario. Specifically, since I had driven and was familiar with Kenworths and Freightliners in training, that I would be issued a Peterbilt. Good instincts, as it turns out. The clutch gave me trouble from the start, with what is called “clutch chatter”. Not severe and the only other Peterbilt I had driven (only for a half hour or so) had the same problem. In any case, the clutch was a body-builder tool and I was soon walking with a limp because of all the excess muscle in my left leg. Not a big problem, until it was a big problem.
The last episode of mechanical adversity cost me ten days of poverty. The company pays an insulting $25 per day for breakdowns after the first two days. The company wanted to nickel-and-dime the hotel. I would have to call and get authorization every day. We tried that on check-in and they refused the company card so I covered the hotel with my own credit card and expensed it back to avoid looking like a deadbeat every afternoon. They have at least reimbursed me for that. They tend to treat drivers as people with no financial means whatsoever. That is probably appropriate considering the level of remuneration.
One wonders what delays are in store for the next truck.
Above is the Peterbilt in question as we “sit in a door” in Garland, Texas. The “lumpers” unload for hours while the driver kills time…taking photos, say. This receiver was mercifully quick and I left no more than three hours after arrival. From here I go to the “Yard”…Company Headquarters. There, to put the old mare out to pasture (tractors are female and trailers, male by virtue of their “connecting equipment”).
After the delivery at Clarksville, I headed for the closest truck stop on I-40, to wait for a new load assignment. This was another of those “pocket” stations where parking for 20 rigs is jammed in behind the fuel island. Both that parking and the surrounding streets were full, so I looked up rest stops and found one on I 40, not far away, with “Room at the Inn”.In a Homer Simpson moment I realized I had not sent my “Empty at Destination” message. No load assignment will happen before that. Once that was done, the message came within seconds – obviously set up in advance. My load picks up in Waldron, Arkansas. This place was about an hour and a half away, down US-23, a winding, up-and-down two-lane blacktop with no shoulders. It would make a great motorcycle trip. It makes a big-truck trip where paying attention is a survival trait.
Frozen chicken is the new cargo. It started out looking like a 24
hour ordeal of drop the empty trailer one morning and hook a loaded
trailer the next. I had all day to drop, but why wait? I got in the
gate before 8 AM and found the office with some guidance from a helpful
employee. These guys all wear warm, long-sleeve jumpsuits, steel-toe
boots and carry mittens. They keep the warehouse cold since this is
frozen chicken they load.
The guys in shipping told me to back into door #4. Apparently this
would be a live load! So, I don’t ask questions, I just get to the
truck and look for the door. It is in an inside corner, with a trailer
parked sideways on the approach, a really big tank, a dumpster and a
trash compactor in front. About 45 minutes were needed to get this one
done. I got some pictures, but photography is not allowed in the plant,
so don’t tell anyone.
In this view, doors one, two and three are to the left, door five to
the right – all occupied with dropped trailers. That dumpster on the
right comes in to the story later.
Plan A:Pulling in from stage right, (figure one) until the tank was looming in the windshield, backing the trailer in while folding the drivers-side of the tractor into the trailer. That backed the trailer into yellow post at the corner.
Above: Plan B was to pull over in front of the trailers, (stage left in figure 2) (PRIME inc., etcetera) and back around the parked trailer (whose taillights you see) into the door. To quote Chico Marx, “Dat’s a-no good, too”. Plan C: Drive out and to the left and find a place to swap ends with the entire rig. Where? – Back in beside the last visible trailer (there is a sign there that says, “Don’t even think of parking here. ” Who’s parking?) Then pull past taillight trailer and the trailers (no tractors) in doors one, two and three, swing wide and put the tractor in the space between the compactor and the dumpster, seen in the previous photo. Then reverse into door #4. That worked.
September 14, 2016 7 PM, Loves Truck Stop at Williams, AZ
While waiting (and not long) for the load to be put on board, I
worked on the trip plan. If I can get a couple of hundred miles behind
me it will take the distance off of the final run to delivery, in three
days’ time. The problem is not drive time, but all the waiting at
first receiver, then shipper has again worn down the 14 hours and I must
get on the road asap/
My trip plan is only roughed out when the loading is finished and so I
submit Oklahoma City as the target for the day and promise the Driver
Manager (DM) that I’ll finish the plan later. It is a matter of driving
as far as practical and finding a place to stop for ten hours (A “Ten”).
I soon see that OKC is out of reach and I have looked up the exit
numbers of the truck stops and rest areas. A rest area near Henryetta
wins the stop and, now committed, I see as I pull in a sign that says
“No Facilities”. OK, it does beat the Ad Hoc
Truck Stop (#1) since I knew it was there before arriving. At Three
PM, mine is the only truck parked. By the time I roll at Two AM, there
are a few dozen, but it is a big area, since there is no room taken up
by restrooms, water fountains or vending machines.
We have established that the best plan is to start in the “wee, small
hours” between midnight and four AM. By the time my day is done, the
parking at truck stops and rest areas are mostly vacant. This works
well, but sometimes clashes with afternoon delivery appointments.
Below is a photo of a sandstone formation at a rest area somewhere in
New Mexico. I know at least a few of my readers have a Geology
background. So, would one or the other please enlighten me as to how
these rocks were weathered like this?
Above: Cubbyholes in the sandstone.
The second leg is to Albuquerque where I am directed to fuel up, but
that is out of reach and Santa Rosa, New Mexico fits the bill for a
Ten A few hours out I begin noticing the outside rear tire on the
trailer looks a little flat. That is the furthest from the driver and
it is supported by the other tire, so it’s hard to say. But, I pull
into the tire check lane and the Loves’ tire tech checks the pressure
with a set of eighteen hoses that attach to all the tires at once.
Meanwhile, I put in just more than 50 gallons (qualifying for a shower
credit) because the annoying red light and a dashboard message that
won’t let me see my digital speedometer tell me that fuel is low.
Sure enough, that tire is at 29 pounds (should be 100). Without the
other tire in the dual, it would be flat as a pancake. I wind up “in
the shop”. The trailer is, anyway. The tractor is outside the shop and
far from the work zone where the tech is finding the leak, so it’s just
one more parking place to me. The usual truck stop routine is in force –
eat, shower and sleep. By the time the first two are done, the tech
shows me the nail my tire picked up and I sign off and move the truck to
normal parking (still with lots of vacancies) and sleep.
I did fuel up in Albuquerque .before dawn and there was a beautiful
overlook of the city on the way out of the depot. I tried to grab a
couple of picture at the stop light, but both came out blurred. I will
look for another photography solution. (Anybody with Go-Pro camera
experience? Please let me hear from you). I was short-clocked by the 8
day rules to only 9 hours and change today (14th) and only
made Williams, AZ instead of Kingman, which was the target. I can still
make the final on time, but it will be a three hour trip that morning
instead of a half hour hop. It pays to stay flexible and put the fat in
the schedule at the end of the trip.
I passed the “divide” of Arizona at 7337 feet of altitude and wind
picked up during the day. Williams is West of Flagstaff and on the
turn-off to the Grand Canyon. This is a good example of the fallacy of
the “see America” aspect of this job. With the Grand Canyon mere miles
away, I saw the truck stop. The sky was tinted red with dust at sunset
and the temperature was 48° F in the morning (September 15, 1 AM,
September 15, 2016 5 PM, Loves Truck Stop at Tulare, California
At the border, there is an inspection station. They are more
concerned with what I am carrying, not its weight. I hand over the Bill
of Lading (BOL) and tell the guy, it’s frozen chicken. He says, “I
know you guys carry either that that or frozen beef. I tell him
(briefly) about the frozen fish. I don’t bring up bananas, since it
might occur to him to look for fruit flies. There is an old joke that
goes, “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.”. He
wishes me a safe trip and I am back on the highway.
California is a ten percent pay cut, since the speed limit is
everywhere 55 Mile per hour. Not to worry, though because I can make up
for it by driving more hours. The cars can all go 70 still and they
probably curse us in our trucks when there is no passing lane. Hey,
they voted for the dufusses who made the speed limit!
That definition mentions in passing that Boron is made by exploding stars. It is a little appreciated fact (except by Astronomy Degree holders – Guilty, Your Honor) that all elements except Hydrogen (and -according to some – a small quantity of Helium , with a trace of Lithium) are manufactured by Nuclear Fusion. So, a great deal of what makes up your body was once inside a Star, somewhat like the Sun. Boron requires Stars that explode and fortunately for us, our Sun is too small for that. So, Boron comes from other Stars or bombardment of cosmic rays – which is even weirder when you know where cosmic rays come from:
You may remember the Brand Name “Twenty Mule Team Borax” which is
mentioned in the above link. However, unless you are Cretaceous, like
myself, you won’t remember the 1950’s television series “Death Valley
Days” that was sponsored by Twenty Mule Team Products and hosted by a
very young actor in Western costume. His name was Ronald Reagan. More
digression – but this time locally influenced.
I had called this truck stop from Arkansas two days ago, to ask if
they could order replacements for my windshield wiper blades. I had no
luck finding the right parts in truck stops over many states. The guy
assured me they were in stock and I found them there. As planned, I
continued for three more hours to get here to Tulare. This sets me up
for a three hour drive to the Final in the morning. I had some time
left and could have driven to a rest stop 24 miles further on, but the
prospect of a shower was too much to pass up. Upon arriving, I realized
that the last Loves shower credit – the one I earned in Santa Rosa – I
had used up in Williams. I still had “clock” and could have continued
to the rest area. But, it could be closed or over-crowded and that
would force me back here anyway. That scenario would have cost me an
hour of drive time tomorrow (due to the eight-day problem) so I
stayed. I know I promised to lay off the “drive clock” subject, but it
keeps cropping up in the day-to-day events.
September 16, 2016, 7:20 AM PDT, Winco Distribution Center, Modesto, California
So far, I like this place. They give you a map and directions and
send you to pull-through (i.e., easy) parking to await your
appointment. Then off to a door and walk your papers into the office. I
have called the local Walmart Supercenter (about 5 miles away) and
received permission to park while shopping. After that, I will go to a
nearby Pilot (16 miles – where I have 5 shower credits) and take a 34
hour break which will reset my 70 hour 8 day situation. That should
stop this running short on drive time. I’m hoping this will set me up
for a long trip, but there are no guarantees.
11:11 AM PDT
I have now completed all my paperwork for this trip, save the Lumper
receipt which they will bring me when I am released. I’ve also cleaned
up my email inbox, replied to some messages and written this bit of
prose for y’all. The door light has been green for over an hour and
still I have no clearance after three hours and 11 minutes from my
appointment (for which I was timely). Can you guess if “detention pay”
is in force with this receiver?
I am moving posts from the old WordPress site to Goingwalkabout.blog. Please excuse the apparent anachronisms.
August 1, 2016
Several of you have suggested that I need to post more photos and I agree. Now that I am a solo driver, it is difficult for me to take photos while driving. I must keep my eyes on the road and I can snap un-aimed photos out the window – about one in ten are worth looking at. So, mostly I will concentrate on photos while parked. And where better to start than what is outside right now.
Above: The view from the “Captain’s Cabin”.
This is the vista that greets me this morning. I am at a Pilot Truck Stop to the South of Richmond Virginia. My truck is backed into a row of trucks that looks out on to the fuel isles. From left to right, top to bottom: The white truck over there would normally be hustled off by the manager for blocking the Scales. The reason he has not been is just barely visible as a Safety Ribbon indicating that the scales are currently out of order. As I mentioned before, these scales are used by the majority of drivers to check their legality. You might think that shippers would assure this, but you would be mistaken. The driver is alone responsible for legal road weight.
The scale measures weights by the axle (or tandem). The “ticket” received has four numbers that tell the driver all he needs to know. I’ll post a photo of same. The black rectangle at lower left covers my company’s name. We won’t talk about them, yet.
The first weight is the front wheels that steer the truck. Those are allowed to carry 12,000 pounds. The next number is the weight of the drive axles – that is the cluster of eight wheels directly behind the driver that move the truck. They, together, are allowed 34,000 pounds of weight. As you see, I came in exactly on the limit and I’ll be buying a lottery ticket today. The next number is the weight on the trailer wheels and that is also limited to 34,000 pounds. What I did after this was to slide the trailer wheels forward to balance the load, overshooting by a hundred or two. After that, I put some more fuel in the tractor, so the two should be as close to balanced as makes no difference. The last number is the combination total and that may be as much as 80,000 pounds. For reference, a passenger car may weight about 2000 or 3000 pounds. This is the Major Leagues, people!
Back to the view above. The fuel stations each have two diesel pumps because the trucks all have a fuel tank on each side. They are filled simultaneously. It is necessary for me to also pull up about 20 feet after fueling the tractor and fuel the trailer tank that feeds the refrigeration unit. Obviously, that must be independent of the tractor, since these trailers may spend much time alone, waiting for transport. When the place is busy, the trucks line up behind one another and ettiquete demands that when you are through fueling, you pull up and leave room for the next guy before you go in for your receipt and coffee, etc. This has the effect of creating parking across from the fuel bays that has a long, easy backing situation for drivers who do not excel at backing (i.e., your humble narrator).
In the cab, you see (left) the curtain which, with its mate on the right, closes for Captain’s privacy. Then the Driver’s chair (very comfortable) and the steering wheel. Next the instrument panel (I know what almost all of those do). Above that is the satellite communication and navigation unit. This is the source of the computer voice “Jill” who tells me where to go. Below the panel is the transmission shifter (Nine forward gears and two reverse). Right of that is the Captain’s Office. It only looks like a piece of plywood with a laptop on it. I am seated there now, writing this. Both seats have armrests as you see on the Office chair. The plastic bag in the foreground, right is the ship’s bakery, with a loaf of whole wheat bread.
The word “whence” is a Middle English term that means “from where”. Use of this word has the advantage of eliminating dangling prepositions (as in: Where does electricity come from?) and avoidance of sounding like Yoda (Comes from where, electricity does?).
A great many people have the idea that it is possible to eliminate “fossil fuels” and nuclear power from our energy supplies and that “electricity” is the means by which that will be accomplished. That “Renewable Ideal” is founded upon a grand misconception and a stunning lack of common sense – as will become apparent while we contemplate this question: “Whence Electricity?”.
The Reality as it Exists (2016)
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory does a survey of US energy use every year. The results are published in a flow chart that requires considerable snaky-eyed concentration to understand. But, I eyed the 2016 Livermore data for you to make this simple pie-chart of electricity in percentage by source:
All graphs are generated by the author and the numbers are from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories
Note: For purposes of this report, commercial sources of energy are capitalized – as in the graph above.
The most obvious lesson here is that Coal, Natural Gas and Nuclear power (with a tiny bit of Petroleum) provide the vast majority – some eighty five percent – of electric generation in the US. The remaining 15% that might be considered to be “environmentally correct” – we will refer to them as “Renewables”.
If you did not know this before, you will be further surprised that the amount of “Fossil Fuel” (and Nuclear) to be replaced in the electric grid is just the beginning of the task.
There are some limitations that characterize the sources called “Renewables” that must be considered.
Hydro-Electric Generation (Hydro)
Hydro is a simple, inexpensive and reliable source of electricity that – unfortunately – has lost its “Green Credentials”. Environmental “wisdom” doesn’t like those dams on rivers and they are now “all-in” on tearing them down. Hydro is dwindling slowly and can be expected to die a slow, lingering death by Green politics. You may think of Hydro as “Renewable” and that’s fine. If you want to claim it is reliable, this reporter will disagree. Your Humble Narrator once visited his in-laws in Bogota, Columbia (he’s a diplomat). They had rolling black-outs because their Hydro projects were suffering from an extended drought (and funds for electrical development that somehow were mis-directed to politicians’ pockets). Blind luck that the Bogota (La Ciudad de Nuestra Señora, Santa Fe de Bogota) has a climate mild enough to do without power at home for 8 hours. Kerosene lamps, candles and propane stoves were enough to get by. Business is another matter and the streets of the Capital were filled with gasoline generators running furiously outside the buildings and snaky extension cords going inside. Hydro requires back-up – even if ad-hoc.
The source of Biomass in electricity generation is mostly industrial and agricultural waste that is burned to generate electricity. Those sources exist because engineers are making efficient use of what would otherwise be an expense nuisance. Most of those opportunities have already been realized, but you may count on that increasing as industry itself expands. Ethanol and biodiesel are generally not used to generate electricity but do make up a small percentage of transportation fuel (which we have not addressed in this electric discussion).
The U.S. has the most Geothermal generation of any country and it is still quite small when compared to the total. It could be expanded, but since it typically involves drilling holes in the Earth, fracturing and using groundwater for a working fluid (unlike petroleum operations), it is also in danger of losing its “Green Credentials”.
Wind is currently subsidized by tax credits and production mandates which make them quite profitable to build. There are major windfarms now under construction. This author has seen fields of hundreds of turbines now being erected in Texas and Kansas – as well as a vast staging yard with parts for hundreds more. Wind provides the dominant part of growth in Renewable generation.
Photoelectric and solar-furnace generation is small but growing, though not as quickly as Wind.
Wind and Solar provide pretty much the only significant growth in Renewables. And that growth amounts to: 0.29 Quadrillion BTUs per year. You see that growth rate graphed as a vertical green bar (i.e., flat green square) next to the orange bar representing 2016 total Conventional electricity capability that the Renewable Ideal would have us replace.
To examine what this “replacement” will require, we will assume that
Electric Demand will not increase (except for all that transportation now fueled by Petroleum).
That ONLY Gasoline and Natural Gas will be replaced. This allows us to avoid the obvious problems in making electric airplanes, trains and ships. The alert reader will point out that ships and trains already are propelled by electric motors. And, the author will point out that those vehicles get their electricity by burning Diesel fuel.
That Wind and Solar plants either last forever or for 50 years (both are unrealistically long).
The graph below shows the timeline for replacement of the Conventional Electric Generation (orange line) and for replacement of both that and the Gasoline and Natural Gas transportation.
The orange line represents total “Conventional” electric generation for 2016 and we have assumed that will not increase. The yellow line is the total of Conventional electric and Gasoline energy expended in the Transportation sector. We have assumed that neither of these will increase. The green line represents Renewable generation increasing at the same rate as the last two years – when it has been quite actively increasing at unsustainable rates. It is assumed that Renewable installations last forever.
In that case, full replacement of Conventional generation can be had by 2109 and replacement of that plus Gasoline and Natural Gas by 2169.
If – on the other hand – it is assumed that such installations last 50 years (a bit more reasonable, but again, overly generous) the years of both “replacement” points can be changed to “never” – as indicated by the blue curve.
There is More
Wind and Solar – which make up the Lion’s share of Renewable growth – are intermittent by their very nature. Solar interruptions are mostly as predictable as the sunset and cause about a 60% full-blown outage every single day. Wind on the other hand, can fail you at any moment – either by calm or storm. Your Humble Narrator has seen whole wind farms in Wyoming standing idle in the fierce winds that frequent that state. They would have been torn apart in the shifting, gusting conditions if they weren’t locked down.
Intermittent energy sources are dependent on other sources of generation. The most clearly relevant of those others are Coal and Gas. Nuclear has so long been long demonized and over-regulated that it will, at best stay constant, and will be of little help in backing up Wind and Solar.
One might come up with the idea of more Renewables as backup. It does not require much thought to see the flaw in that reasoning.
What that means is that Conventional sources of electricity simply cannot be replaced unless you can convince every electric customer to live with intermittent service. That did not happen in the aforementioned Bogota example and will not happen here. However, the attempt would make for Gargantuan sales of home generators – make mine a diesel, please.
So, the “All renewable” points in that graph are nothing less that Absolute Fantasy. Wind and Solar must be backed up completely (that is to say 100%) with Fossil Fuels or Nukes!
Even if we imagine that windmills and solar panels last forever – after 90 to 150 years of hideous expense, there will be just as much “non-renewable” electric capacity as before. The difference will be that the non-renewable plants will mostly be wastefully idling, waiting for the Sun to go down or the winds to calm.
P.S. Some of you are saying, “What about batteries, then?”
First off, you sound like Brits.
Second, I will address this in “Around Robin Hood’s Barn in an Electric Car – Part Two”
In the 16 months I spent “Over the Road” there were more than a few trucks that left that road to be seen along the way. I managed to photograph only a few. A few readers have asked how I got these photos while driving. Most of them were taken while sitting still in the resulting traffic jam. A few were taken out the window with eyes on the road. I’d click off a dozen or so blind shots and pick the good one later. As you will see, sometimes there was not a “good one”.
(Please note that these photos were safely taken while stopped dead in the resulting traffic jams!)
This victim had to be in Wisconsin. I say that because of the red barn.
You see that the axles are separated singles, not tandems. That is generally to meet bridge weight limits on secondary roads.
The Crimson Cowsheds are so common in Wisconsin that I made a montage of same. You will note the renegade blue barn at lower right.
This one was on I-80, east of Cheyenne. It was probably not a blow over – unless perhaps from the afternoon before. The weather was calm when I passed – as it tends to be in the morning.
On a later trip through Wyoming, I was called from Cheyenne to swap out with another driver at Rowling. The trip started badly with the trailer being blown around with ever-increasing intensity. The wind was picking up quickly and the weather radio was talking about 45 mph gusts at Rowling. I noticed all the windmills were locked down, motionless and the programable warning signs had the message “Extreme Blow Over Risk”. I finally had to put myself and my empty trailer on weather standby when I could not maintain my lane. There was plenty of company at the parking pull-out that exists for just such occasions. It was there that I noticed that my passenger-side neighbor had a cat in his cab.
Many drivers have their “mascots” but 99% are dogs. Over-the-Road life gets surreally solitary. I could put up with it because I am a loner by nature and writing kept me sane – well…almost.
.My wife offered me the “middle cat”, Pepper, who likes to get in the car. But, I could not imagine walking a cat around a truck stop on a leash for “ablutions” – especially this particular cat.
I had the distinct feeling that this swap was with another sane driver who pulled off in Rowling with a full trailer to avoid the same windstorm. While I waited for dusk and the calm that usually comes then, the gusts increased to 65 mph. When finally I could roll – without rolling over – the swap had been cancelled. I was sent instead to Nebraska for a load that I would pull right back across Wyoming the next day.
That day the warnings were less extreme (just “Blow Over Risk” – no extremities). My full load kept me grounded, but even so, there were two rigs on their sides by the road. Neither had seals or locks on their back doors – a sure sign they were both empty.
This is the second one over by the Utah border. It had been put back on to its wheels (although still listing precipitously to the right) by a heavy duty wrecker that was just hooking up to tow it away.
Blow Over is not the only risk. In crossing Tennessee (the short way), this scene appeared
The trucks in the foreground had no doubt stopped to help. Every rig has at least one fire extinguisher. It looks like a Schneider (orange) box van on fire.
As I passed, the rise in the median intervened and little but smoke and flames were visible.
This Volvo with its flatbed was the worst accident I managed to photograph. It had apparently crossed opposing traffic and rolled completely over on its cargo. The cab was crushed and I could not see how a driver might have survived this.
This was all that was left of one of those Black Company tractors. I am not ever sure of the make. They brought it back to Purgatory to use as a visual aid in Safety Class. All the students were marched out past this and lectured by an instructor as a part of a cautionary tale.
The driver had been “facetiming” with his girlfriend when he blundered into a family in a rented motor home. Ironically, they had been taking it easy in the slow lane for safety. Both the tractor and the motor home burned to the ground. Incredibly, no one was killed or injured.
About the time of the 35th anniversary of said Company, there was a commemorative trailer painted with celebratory murals brought around to this “gathering point” (there are food trucks behind the photographer) and the poor burnt-to-a-crisp tractor was relegated to a back lot where it would not dampen the spirit.
The 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.
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.
Montage 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. 🙂