Tag: Trucking

A Most Excellent Day in Denver

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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 Bandit in 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.

aerialphotoanoteAbove:  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).

busstopaintmuchtolookatAbove: The bus stop in question.

StationElevatorMountainsDay.jpgAbove: 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.

coloradostatecapitalAbove:  The Capitol Building of the State of Colorado.  It is currently under construction.  The cost and delays are a subject of local dispute.

capitoldomeAbove: 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.

WolfStatues.jpgAbove: 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. 😉

mastadonstatueAbove:  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.

lakeandskylineAbove: 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?

trucklurkingbehingkenworthAbove:  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 of cost overruns  and a baggage system that 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 studies and analyses 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.

AirportNeighborhoodBlank.jpgAbove:  On the train to DIA.  East of Denver, the landscape is not what comes to mind when “Colorado” is uttered.

AirportTelephonePoleMystery.jpgAbove:  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.

airportarchitecture1Above: The Westin Hotel, left makes a bold architectural statement.

AirportArchitecture2.jpgAbove: Across from the Hotel the airport terminal is another statement that clashes dramatically with the Westin.

Note the aluminum “grassland” in the foreground.

WindSculptureReveal.jpgAbove: 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.

TelephonePoleSculptureReveal.jpgAbove:  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.

Steve

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. 🙂

Thirty Four Hours in Ripon

stevetrucker2 Transferred from WordPressmariluslogoclickhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Good Night.

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

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

Over The Road,

Steve

Somewhere in Oklahoma

stevesafetyglassesJanuary 11, 2019      homepage

Many of my readers will be happy to know that I have again found employment in the Seismic Industry – as much out of friendship as of appreciation that I will not be complaining about being unemployed.  I will be somewhere in Oklahoma for a few weeks  A project in Texas is penciled in for later.  The client has rules about posting photos and project information, so I am intentionally vague.  If you are also in Seismic, you can guess who the client is.  The company may have such rules and so they will be referred to as “the Company”.  The photo below is not related to the project or the Company.  (As far as I know, the project does not extend to the sky).  This is an example of  “Sundogs” which is a pair of bright spots of refracted sunlight that illuminate a cloud layer.  This is fairly rare and I have seen it maybe 5 times in as many decades.

sundogs_crop_arrows2

A rainbow, by comparison, is both reflected and refracted and appears in the sky opposite of the sun.

Below (left) in my Personal Protective equipment.  (Yes, I will trim the beard soon) hardhatsteve

My job is driving the fuel truck. Fortunately for me, haz-mat drivers are in demand just now.    I don’t have a lot of spare time, so stay tuned!

Hasta Luego,

Steve

Purgatory

SteveTrucker2

MarilusLogo

August 7, 2016

Purgatory

[pur-guh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee]

  1. 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.

12946.jpg

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.

TractorRowDay.jpgAbove:  “Tractor Row” The one with the cool-looking beach scene in the windshield is mine.

CaptainsDesk12946Above:  The Kenworth has a desk that does not look like a piece of plywood.

PurgatoryAbove:  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”.

Farewell 12573 – We Hardly Knew Ye!

SteveTrucker2

August 5, 2016       Garland, Texas     homepage


I am reminded that today is Christmas Day

                    So, Please also have a look at this Christmas Classic

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.

12573Anon

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”).

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

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.

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” 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