Tag: Life Experience

Twenty Mules

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September 12, 2016, Tyson Plant, Wadron, Arkansas

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

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

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

chickendoor4a
Figure 1

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

ChickenDoor4BRotate
Figure 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sandstoneweathering2

Above: Cubbyholes in the sandstone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My next fuel stop is programmed for Boron, CA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11:11 AM PDT

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

Trip Complete. On to Wal-Mart

Over The Road,

Steve

Richmond

I am moving posts from the old WordPress site to Goingwalkabout.blog.  Please excuse the apparent anachronisms.

SteveTrucker2

August 1, 2016

Richmond, Virginia

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.

ViewFromCaptainsBunk2.jpg

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.

ScaleTicket.jpg

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.

I need to be rolling soon.

Over the Road,

Steve

Whence Electricity?

SteveTrucker2    Sign123    June 15, 2018

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

WhenceElectricity
Figure 1:  85 percent of electric generation is from “fossil fuels” or nuclear power plants

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.

Limitations

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.

Biomass

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).

Geothermal

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

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.

Solar

Photoelectric and solar-furnace generation is small but growing, though not as quickly as Wind.

ConventionalANDGreenGrowth
Figure 2: Current “Conventional Electricity and the growth of Renewable

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

  1. Electric Demand will not increase (except for all that transportation now fueled by Petroleum).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

TimeBeforeGreenReplacement
Figure 3: Current Electric capacity (orange) plus Gasoline transport (yellow).  Assumed Green growth (green – doh!) and green growth with 50-year lifetime (blue).

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.

Conclusion

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.

Hasta Luego,

Steve

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”

For more on US energy use – including non-electric consumption – see my articles called Changing Energy Use in the United States.   and  An Ill Wind

Having Left the Highway

SteveTrucker2  Homepage   DreamVacations

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

Wisconsin

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

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

WIBARNMONTAGE.png

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

Wyoming

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

Wreck_WY

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

CatInATruck

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

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

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

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

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

Tennessee

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

TennesseeConflagrationCrop

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

TenesseeConflagClose

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

Oklahoma

Overturned (3) 

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

Dallas

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

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

About the time of the 35th anniversary of said Company, there was a commemorative trailer painted with celebratory murals brought around to this “gathering point” (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.

Hasta Luego,

Steve

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

Changing Energy Use in The United States

SteveTrucker2  Homepage   DreamVacations   Portfolio

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.  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

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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