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Another Masterpiece from the WordPress site
August 16-21, 2016
Baltimore Washington International Airport
Chicago O’Hare Airport
Home in Houston
In addition to a Driver Manager, I have a “Counselor” who is supposed to represent me in matters of family considerations, personal leave and financial matters. I will admit that I doubted the effectiveness of this set-up from the start. It may be that I am too cynical on these matters. But I insist that I have good reason to be cynical by default.
Nevertheless, I called and told my tale to my Counselor and she did what someone should have done before they jerked my chain around like they did. She found a place for me to store the truck and bought me an air ticket home. So, while I cannot forgive the despicable way they were treating me, I can say (somewhat grudgingly) that they ultimately did the right thing. Since I am managing to get these loads delivered on time and safely (and at bargain prices, I might add), I have every right to expect the right thing.
So let’s move on. The place where I left the truck is the other Peterbilt shop in Maryland, this one in Baltimore. I made sure to tell them about my ten-day visit to their sister “Pete Store” in Landover where I was so long a fixture in their shop that they joked about me being put “on the payroll”.
I am in the Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) with an hour and a half to burn. If it were anywhere but an airport, I would have a beer. I vaguely remember beer. But the fact that the menus don’t mention prices and that this is the Eastern Seaboard North of Virginia tells me that these prices are out of my league. Besides, I’ve waited over a month and it won’t hurt me to wait until I can have beer at merely retail prices. On the other hand, I don’t do this often. These days I almost don’t drink beer at all. Maybe just one. In the spirit of investigation, you see. (That wasn’t hard to get over, now was it?).
Well, beer at BWI is seven dollars for a draft pint. I can’t call it reasonable. Indeed I can still call it excessive, but with the understanding that the airport will set the rents for these places knowing that they can charge these excessive amounts and so that is what has to happen for them to meet that rent. So, I pay the seven bucks for a Samuel Adams draft and tip a Dollar – once.
You may remember that this all came about because they wanted me to go back to Illinois. In a weird twist of fate, I had a layover in Chicago before the final flight to Houston. In Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD), the investigative urge comes upon me again and I find that the price of beer went is now in double digits – for the same Samuel Adams draft. I am an old man of limited means and so I appreciate very much that the bartender selling this expensive brew contributed his tip to the price of my beer.
So, now I am home at that same kitchen table where you saw my “before and after” photos. I have been to the gym this morning to swim 15 laps and already I have some muscle tone in my upper body that has been so sadly lacking in the last few months. I also weighed myself to find out that I am still 70 pounds lighter than the end of last year. That is a really good thing, since my health was beginning to notice the extra stress!
I have “taken care of business” – most importantly to get my youngest son to college at UT Dallas. It is a great campus for a University that is gaining a good reputation for Computer Science. Among their corporate sponsors is Texas Instruments, a company that invented a little thing called the “integrated circuit”.
I dutifully spoke the required phrases that all Fathers must recite.
“Why when I was in college, we had roommates and a bathroom down the hall with a gang shower. Not these single bedrooms and private baths. ”
“ We had to lug around big piles of hardcover books, not your fancy-pants ipads.’
“We walked to classes in the snow, uphill – both ways”.
The elder son is now a Chef and I have counseled him to become a restauranteur extraordinaire and create a gastronomic empire on the model of
Pappas family – now famously successful in Houston and all of Texas.
I figure that while I am dreaming, I should dream BIG.
I also was able to make room in the overstuffed garage for the second of four automobiles that will live here with the two resident humans for the near future. It is perhaps ominous that cats now outnumber human occupants in my remote and fondly remembered home.
And my lovely wife is also busy with her many interests – not least of which is her travel agency where she creates “Dream Vacations”, arranging cruises and tours worldwide. I am happy that in my absence, my loved ones are industrious and well-occupied.
Me? I am also well-occupied, back in my truck in North Carolina and bound for Orlando. This is not what I imagined I would be doing at my age, but it has been challenging and interesting. I will continue to ply the highways and tell my tales. I of course appreciate your interest, Dear Readers.
P.S., I know you like when I include photos. I don’t have any that relate directly to the text. But, the photos below are from the time in Maryland when I visited the Air and Space Museum. And, I did mention Maryland.
From the old WordPress site…
August 16, 2016
The 25 hour lay-over completed, I drove to the final delivery, checked in for a door and backed in to be unloaded. This was a well-laid-out docking area that had widely spaced doors and a long run-out in front of mine. That did not stop a fellow trucker from parking across my long run-out to make it another high-angle parking situation. So, again the ordeal of maneuvering the trailer backwards into a gap. This time the gap was a bit bigger, though. And, I seem to be getting better at this.
I thought of how to explain this and came up with the following analogy:
Line up two dominoes with a gap between them that will fit a third domino with a small gap on either side. See the diagram above.
Once you have the “Start” laid out, put one hand in your pocket, then push on the center of the end of the third domino where you see the red diamond shape. No fair pushing on the corners! Now push that third domino until you have the “End” configuration. If the moving domino touches the others, you lose. It would, of course be much easier if your moving domino were lined up – parallel and straight in front of the gap. That is what I mean by “long run-out”. Imagine doing this exercise with three hundred-thousand dollar vehicles (more with cargo), looking back at the trailer through the driver’s window and in mirrors. This from70 feet away.
I have to do that about once every two or three days.
Anyway, I got to the receiver, sent that status to the company and backed in to be unloaded. They unload the trailer by driving a heavy forklift into it and picking up a multi-ton stack of cargo and exiting. They do this hundreds of times a day and have gotten very fast at it. The result is an earthquake-like shaking in the cab for an hour or two. But, in the meantime the long-awaited message will come that will tell me to pick up a load and take it to Texas and home.
Only, the message says go pick up a load and take it to Illinois – delivering on the second day of my pre-planned and approved home time (only Illinois ain’t my home). I put in for this break over a month ago and while I was in Purgatory (not the ski resort) they asked again and I requested the same and they approved it again. Must be a mistake, right?
“Well,” they say,. “It will be easy to get you a load out of Illinois to Texas”.
If you read my previous post, you know that I have just come from Chicago.
That’s in Illinois.
I went there from Maryland because they said it would be easy to route me home from there. Then they said, they had nothing from there and I could get a load home from Maryland. So, I went to Maryland.
Somebody is being less than honest with me.
The load assignment has an acceptance auto-reply where I answer “yes” to the assignment and have an option to comment. I answered “NO” and commented the story I just told you. Some severe editing was needed to get that into the two line comment field. Then I went looking for a place to park. But, this too shall pass and what else could go wrong?
Parking for big trucks is a critical problem in this part of the country, as my previous post mentioned. There was a truck stop, nearby and it was one of those where you pay to park, but “any port in a storm”, as they say. There was not one space left open. I left. The first two hours in this place are free (and darned well worth every penny, as it turns out) so, I didn’t have to pay to be turned away. I drove toward the nearest stop I could find on the “apps” which is fifty miles away. There is no real hope that they will have space, but what else can I do?
Along the route (North on Interstate 95), there is a rest stop with truck parking, fuel and a big food court called Maryland House. I’ve been there before. It is hidden from the road and requires a left exit where the left lane is forbidden to trucks. Truckers often take their 30 minute breaks at places like this, so there was a chance I could find a recently-vacated space. I did and I am there now.
It is four AM and there is still no word on my load home. I will probably be denied my home break. But, it will be denied by a human being on the phone – not by anonymous satellite message. There are certain levels of decency that I expect out of life and this is one of them.
Then, I’ll go back to Illinois. But I will remember this shabby treatment for a good long while.
This is yet another post that was languishing over at the WordPress site.
September 27, 2016
This sage advice is from me to myself. I am in Denton, Texas, “sitting in a door” awaiting the unloading of produce from California. A “preplan” has just come across the satellite link that tells me my next load will be picking up at the Coca Cola Syrup Plant in Dallas. The destination is Denver for 840 miles – a two day trip that will undoubtedly be stretched into four days, as we discussed in earlier Chapters. But, I accept the load because I really have no choice.
Now for the Rest of the Story: A note from someone named Billy says I should bring my load to the Yard. So, you see the lesson is clear: Stay away from Dallas.
I called my Driver Manager to Confirm this – since I have no idea who “Billy” is – and, yes I have to make an appearance in Purgatory (not the ski resort (NTSR)). One reason is a physical exam , after the third such in the last nine months. I passed them all, by the way. The first and third exams had a one year renewal. But, since my livelihood is apparently a low priority, I have to go in for a forth. Today is Friday. Since it its nearly 4 PM and the light is still red – meaning I cannot yet leave the door – there is no way I can get there during “office hours” – and I suspect the Doctors do not work on Weekends. So, unless I miss my guess, this will be three or possibly four more days of ungainful unemployment.
The unloaded message from Target has come. The light is still red but when it changes I can go to Coca Cola and then to Purgatory (NTSR). Meanwhile, my clock has run out completely and utterly. The Coca Cola Plant policy is – as I many times said as a bartender – “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”. I had told the shipping clerk that if I could not be loaded in two hours, I would come back in the morning. That particular clerk was not among the Polite and Helpful Shipping Personnel of whom I have written before. He ignored my advice completely.
While the clock was ticking down, – in anticipation of what finally did occur – I had called “Night Safety” and asked for advice. Their sage counsel was basically this: “Call me when you actually fall off the cliff.”
One thing I have learned in this occupation (maybe I should start a list) is: When you have an insoluble problem, ask the people in the plant because they have seen this a hundred times before,” The first choice is the Yard Tractor Guy, If he is unavailable (being very busy), ask the man who brings you your paperwork. That helpful and cheerful individual clued me in to some big parking lots to be found about a half mile away. I chose a Lowes lot, because, on the way in I had stopped there to confirm directions. There was an old trailer parked there that I could hide behind to avoid any questions from the Local Constabulary.
I was officially “off duty” and I creeping the truck at 10 MPH – flashers going – I manage to stay that way to find the Lowes. I also find another truck who has taken my hiding place behind the abandoned trailer. One look by the loading docks finds tow-away warnings with certain words in bold font. There was, however a string of about 10 conventional parking spots – off the side of the building, but in full view of the street.
Calling Night Safety is no longer useful since they may well tell me to move. And I have no confidence in their advice now anyway. So, I mentally prepare my defense for the sin of parking.
September 27, 2016 Pilot truck Stop outside Amarillo, Texas
Back in Purgatory
The “Yard” is a singularly depressing place. Every driver there is earning nothing. When I arrive, I am handed a list of tasks I must accomplish in order to escape Purgatory (NTSR). I find that I will be here at least three days between safety lectures and the physical exam. A few of the safety items are accomplished before the office staff goes home at noon, Saturday. The remainder must wait until Monday. With few exceptions, every driver here is trapped without transportation. You don’t just drive these trucks when you think you want to go somewhere – you must be “dispatched” and you won’t be, until your list is complete and signed off. There are two “loaner” cars for the untold hundreds of drivers. The waiting list is three hours long and the car must be returned within one hour. The entirety of Saturday afternoon was consumed with one trip to Walmart. This was urgent, since the truck’s food supply has dwindled to “Spam Rations”.
Sunday was shaping up to be especially dismal, having literally nothing to advance the cause of getting out of Purgatory (NTSR). I thought of my son Benjamin now attending college classes about 50 miles from Purgatory. I would like to visit him, but that would be a trip out of the one-hour-loaner-car range. A taxi is financially counter-indicated in my current circumstances. Fortunately, Dallas has an extensive mass-transit rail system that nobody seems to know about. I hatched a plot to make a Great Railway Journey to The University of Texas at Dallas (which is really in Richardson, Texas). Some research came up with this route:
Take the 597 bus that stops right in front of Purgatory (NTSR). That takes me to Lawn View train station. From there I take the Green line downtown and transfer to the Red Line which takes me almost to Plano. I get off at City Line/Bush station and take the 883 UTD shuttle. About two hours and fifteen minutes each way. Since the alternative was to cool my heals in Purgatory, I decided to make the journey. The price was right, being a five-dollar day pass. I noticed that it was good until Three AM the next day. I am quite sure this is because bars close at Two.
Above: The trip plan to UT Dallas. The Astute Reader will notice that this is actually a picture of the return route.
Above: The Green Line station at Lawn View
Above: Benjamin’s Dormitory Building. His window is third from the left on the second floor. Like almost every building on Campus, it is very new.
Above: The lobby at Benjamins Dorm.
So, instead of a depressing and lonely vigil of hopelessness, Sunday had become an interesting trip to spend some time with my beloved son. There is, after all a reason not to avoid Dallas. For this much-needed relief I was truly thankful.
Benjamin took me to lunch and then we went shopping at Walmart. That was yet another bus ride. The stop outside Walmart was littered with abandoned shopping carts. I, your humble narrator, pointed out (ostensibly to Benjamin, but meant to be overheard by the mass of scholars there assembled) that the arriving student-shoppers could choose a cart from this stash and take it in with them. I set them an example, but none of the “Future of America” saw fit to join me. They did select carts at the door, however. And no doubt they added to the collection at the bus stop on the way out.
Above: The bus stop at Walmart
Above: City Line / Bush Station, on the way back to Purgatory. The emergency equipment was there when I arrived for some poor commuter who somehow fell and was trapped between the bench and the partition that you see under the awning at left. I didn’t rush over and photograph him, since I am sure he was dying of embarrassment, in addition to the nasty bruises I noticed as they put him in the ambulance.
There is some good that comes of this unwilling visit to Purgatory. Mechanics replaced the duct taped improvised oil filler cap that I made from a fish oil pill bottle with a real oil cap and replaced the lost oil – five gallons of same. They also repaired the tractor suspension airbag that was leaking. While I was in safety class and getting my blood pressure checked, they replaced my cracked windshield. They transferred the EZ pass for tolls and the Prepass indicator for weigh stations to the new windshield. One particular windshield-mounted item did not make the transition and I won’t miss it one bit. (Update: Since I am no longer employed by Stevens Transport I can tell you that the item in question was the “1984 – Big Brother Camera” (84BBC) that watched over me for those months before the windshield was replaced. I did not mention it before because, in my Paranoia, I imagined that Stevens might read my blog and call me again to Purgatory for a replacement of the 84BBC.)
There was also a problem with the air-suspension seats, which tend to leak down while the engine is off and leave the driver looking eye-level at the steering wheel. They did not get to that problem of the leaking seats but I can live with those. When the engine is running the seats rise to comfortable height. It would have taken longer and I needed to get on the road to actually earn a living.
On Monday, after all my assigned tasks were complete, I received a load assignment to take bottled soft drinks to Denver.
Over The Road,
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.
Above: This view from Google Maps (obviously an older photo) shows the area where the new station was built in red. The Gash is pointed out by the blue arrow, the Elevator by the Yellow and the location of the truck stop is off stage to the left.
There is a bus stop diagonally across the street from the truck stop. It is the number 44 bus that takes me around the gash and the elevator to the shiny new station. The bus stop ain’t much to look at (below).
Above: The bus stop in question.
Above: The station’s newness is obvious. The grain elevator is seen. The Rocky Mountains loom in the distance.
The train took me to Union Station in Downtown Denver. From there we find free shuttles down Broadway that end at the Capitol.
Above: The Capitol Building of the State of Colorado. It is currently under construction. The cost and delays are a subject of local dispute.
Above: The Capitol Dome from within.
Rest Area at I70 exit 224, Kansas.
A new load assignment came in to interrupt the story. Deadhead to Dodge City Kansas for a load of beef to bring to Omnivores in Maryland.
Denver also has a nice big city park where the Zoo and Museum of Nature and Science are found. Both are worthy of a visit, if I had the time – even at the steep prices of admission. As it was, I wandered around and got some good photos. Remember, this is about the journey, not the destination. The park is reached by a bus near the Capitol to Colorado Avenue.
Above: Wolf statues in front of the Museum. These are obviously not “hands-off” art since there is a sign warning that the brass wolves may be really hot. 😉
Above: A Mastadon statue based on some remains found at a construction site. Truly a Magnificent Work, in my humble opinion. The scale is not obvious and I had no one to put in the picture for reference. I estimate the tip of the animal’s trunk to be 18 feet off the ground.
Above: A view of the park’s lake and the Denver skyline with the Rocky Mountains in the distance.
About this time I got nervous about leaving the truck, so I went back to check on it. A bus takes me North to that same rail station and I go back to the truck stop on that same #44 route. As I arrived, there was a moment when I did not see the truck. It was hiding behind a new arrival. See it there behind the Square-nose Peterbilt?
Above: My truck is there, hiding behind the Peterbilt, just to scare me. By coincidence there is a Freightliner in the foreground and a Volvo past my Kenworth. Those four represent maybe 90% of the trucks on the road in the US.
I ventured out in the afternoon to see the airport. I could have cut the $9 day pass to $4.50 without the airport, but that particular Denver facility has a storied history 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.
Above: On the train to DIA. East of Denver, the landscape is not what comes to mind when “Colorado” is uttered.
Above: This construction of telephone poles on stilts greets new arrivals at the airport. There is mirror image of this on the other side. Their artistic significance was not immediately obvious.
Above: The Westin Hotel, left makes a bold architectural statement.
Above: Across from the Hotel the airport terminal is another statement that clashes dramatically with the Westin.
Note the aluminum “grassland” in the foreground.
Above: The Aluminum Alfalfa Field (I made that name up) is a wind-driven mobile sculpture. Its charm was mostly lost on this windless day. While I can imagine that interesting waves and ripples would be generated, I am an old techno-nerd. I suspect that the people – especially young folks – now are so jaded by Computer Generated Images that they are not impressed by such things.
Above: The telephone poles viewed from the upper level, outside the hotel
I had plans to see other lines on the transit system, but it was getting late in the day and I would need to roll to Kansas at 5:00 AM. I will no doubt be back this way and there is a line to Golden that might be interesting.
The weather was perfect for an entertaining and interesting day. Even though I am marooned again for a day and a half, instead of boredom and depression I find contentment and purpose in a different sort of journey.
I said at the beginning of this Walkabout that did not know what I would learn.
Here is the first conclusive lesson. It requires some explanation:
I have traveled a great deal in my life and I have always found it compelling and satisfying. Looking back – I had not always sought out occupations that involved travel, but they seemed to have found me nonetheless. When I found myself trapped in an office job in a windowless gang-office in Houston, I found a way to transfer to a part of the same company that works in the field (jungle, desert, mountains) in South America. There was no “transfer policy” in said company, as they did not expect people to want to move to the field. It seems that “normal people” wanted to come in from the field and work in an office. If you have not discovered this independently by reading my posts, let me just admit right now that I am not “normal”.
There were many reasons for my intention to go and work abroad, none of which had anything to do with travelling. The most important result of that decision is my wife, who I met in Caracas, Venezuela (she is from Peru) and the family we have raised. Beyond that, I found that travelling back and forth to the field was the most pleasant and interesting time, despite the sadness of leaving the family and the joy of returning.
Having said that, this latest change in my life has made clear what I knew only vaguely before. That is: I am most content and my soul most at ease when traveling. With the exception of my family, the destination is just the excuse for the journey.
Update: I-70 Tollway Travel Plaza @ Mile marker 112 in Pensylvainia.
My journey from Denver to Maryland has thus far passed through Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. I noticed Trump signs early on and kept a rough count. There were about twenty seven (27), some in every state. The largest was a billboard about 20 feet across. The smallest was a custom made sign in West Virginia that said “Trump Digs Coal”.
As you may know, West Virginia coal miners have been begarded into poverty by a cruel and hateful Obama who is running coal companies out of business for no good reason*. Hillary promises to do the same.
There were no Hillary signs to be seen – anywhere..
*Don’t argue with me, I know what I am talking about. 🙂
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.
Above: 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.
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,
January 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.
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)
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!
August 7, 2016
I am now “on the Yard” at company headquarters. I have dropped my trailer and been assigned another truck. This one is a real mystery. A Kenworth T680 built in November, 2013. It looks almost new, drives and shifts smoothly and is “clean as a whistle”. The odometer reads 35,000 miles. And that would seem impossible.
This truck has been “on the fleet” for two and a half years and should have at least five or six times that mileage. The Peterbilt is just about that old and it has 385,000 miles. While I am lucky to have such a low mileage vehicle, I can’t help but wonder what the story is behind this machine. One thing that is completely out of place in this story is the condition of the forward drive axle. Its tires are nearly at the legal minimum for tread depth, while its brother’s tires to the rear are almost new. I have requested that these tires (the baldies, that is) be replaced.
I pull up the Kenworth “across the bow” of the Peterbilt to transfer the refrigerator first and then all my other possessions. It can’t stay there long, but I don’t need long. Next I swap the Peterbilt out of the “good” parking spot and put the Kenworth into same. I drove the Peterbilt over by the garage where I would turn in the keys in the morning. Then, I collapsed in the Kenworth because what I just described was a lot of work. Fortunately, the Kenworth has a working Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) that keeps the cabin habitable through the hot Dallas evening.
Above: 2014 model Kenworth T680 – 12946. Note the windshield shade with cool-looking beach scene. It reflects the heat , yes. But more importantly, it marks my truck so I can find it later. Please see “Tractor Row” below for explanation.
Above: “Tractor Row” The one with the cool-looking beach scene in the windshield is mine.
Above: The Kenworth has a desk that does not look like a piece of plywood.
Above: Purgatory’s Backside. The small building in the foreground has the driver’s lounge where trucker stereotypes are preserved by drivers leaving their empty soda bottles and pizza cartons strewn across the tables and floors while the trash cans in the room remain empty.
In the morning, I have lots to do before I am allowed to leave the Yard. These activities include safety lectures and dealing with “compliance” (recordkeeping to comply with federal regulations on driving time – it’s complicated). Then I need my Driver Manager’s approval and that of “Central Clearance” – they check all my registrations and paperwork. I cannot get my truck out the gate without all these items ticked off the list. And those tires I requested apparently are still being manufactured and will be shipped out by mule train sometime next week.
Fact is, I don’t have a load, yet anyway, so there is nowhere to go. And, it does not matter anyway because all the people who can provide “approval” for my departure have gone home at noon, today, Saturday. They will not return until Monday when dozens of other drivers – trapped in Purgatory with me – will compete to get their clearance. So, another two days (minimum) of no income. This has become a recurring theme in the “high-paying-job-as-a-professional-truck-driver”.
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.
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”).
August 1, 2016
Several of you have suggested that I need to post more photos and I agree. Now that I am a solo driver, it is difficult for me to take photos while driving. I must keep my eyes on the road and I can snap un-aimed photos out the window – about one in ten are worth looking at. So, mostly I will concentrate on photos while parked. And where better to start than what is outside right now.
Above: The view from the “Captain’s Cabin”.
This is the vista that greets me this morning. I am at a Pilot Truck Stop to the South of Richmond Virginia. My truck is backed into a row of trucks that looks out on to the fuel isles. From left to right, top to bottom: The white truck over there would normally be hustled off by the manager for blocking the Scales. The reason he has not been is just barely visible as a Safety Ribbon indicating that the scales are currently out of order. As I mentioned before, these scales are used by the majority of drivers to check their legality. You might think that shippers would assure this, but you would be mistaken. The driver is alone responsible for legal road weight.
The scale measures weights by the axle (or tandem). The “ticket” received has four numbers that tell the driver all he needs to know. I’ll post a photo of same. The black rectangle at lower left covers my company’s name. We won’t talk about them, yet.
The first weight is the front wheels that steer the truck. Those are allowed to carry 12,000 pounds. The next number is the weight of the drive axles – that is the cluster of eight wheels directly behind the driver that move the truck. They, together, are allowed 34,000 pounds of weight. As you see, I came in exactly on the limit and I’ll be buying a lottery ticket today. The next number is the weight on the trailer wheels and that is also limited to 34,000 pounds. What I did after this was to slide the trailer wheels forward to balance the load, overshooting by a hundred or two. After that, I put some more fuel in the tractor, so the two should be as close to balanced as makes no difference. The last number is the combination total and that may be as much as 80,000 pounds. For reference, a passenger car may weight about 2000 or 3000 pounds. This is the Major Leagues, people!
Back to the view above. The fuel stations each have two diesel pumps because the trucks all have a fuel tank on each side. They are filled simultaneously. It is necessary for me to also pull up about 20 feet after fueling the tractor and fuel the trailer tank that feeds the refrigeration unit. Obviously, that must be independent of the tractor, since these trailers may spend much time alone, waiting for transport. When the place is busy, the trucks line up behind one another and ettiquete demands that when you are through fueling, you pull up and leave room for the next guy before you go in for your receipt and coffee, etc. This has the effect of creating parking across from the fuel bays that has a long, easy backing situation for drivers who do not excel at backing (i.e., your humble narrator).
In the cab, you see (left) the curtain which, with its mate on the right, closes for Captain’s privacy. Then the Driver’s chair (very comfortable) and the steering wheel. Next the instrument panel (I know what almost all of those do). Above that is the satellite communication and navigation unit. This is the source of the computer voice “Jill” who tells me where to go. Below the panel is the transmission shifter (Nine forward gears and two reverse). Right of that is the Captain’s Office. It only looks like a piece of plywood with a laptop on it. I am seated there now, writing this. Both seats have armrests as you see on the Office chair. The plastic bag in the foreground, right is the ship’s bakery, with a loaf of whole wheat bread.
I need to be rolling soon.
Over the Road,