Friday, October 31, 2008

Morris, Illinois to... Morris, Illinois

After the trailer demolition derby yesterday (a wag who emailed me commented, "Tug test complete!") a trailer repair company came out and took the trailer and I bobtailed to a customer of ours in Morris, Illinois that had an empty I could take. There was some confusion and hurried changing of plans, but somehow it worked out that I got a trailer from a driver who had come in from Iowa heading to Elkhart, Indiana for the following morning at 0700.

I departed as soon as I legally could around 0300 and made it to the consignee for the load a smidge after 0700 due to filling up the reefer fuel tank before I headed in. Turns out, they didn't care since it was a live unload instead of a drop and hook, but they didn't care anyway since they are a "FCFS" outfit (First Come First Served).

I waited for three hours after I was unloaded, and that is what really screwed me for the rest of the day. The sat unit eventually beeped and I was ordered to Romeoville, Illinois near Chicago to pick up a load heading to North Platte, Nebraska that I would drop off at our HQ in Omaha then get a different load going to the house. Only, it was around 0930 and the end of the loading window was 1100 and I was something like 130 miles away. I did the best I could, arriving just before noon and was assigned a door.

Now, if I had been assigned the load an hour earlier, I could have made it to the shipper on time. Since I wasn't, it took about 4.5 hours to get loaded. Since I arrived late, our company can't get any detention pay from the shipper ("Hey, we told you when you needed to have a truck there, no money baby!") which leaves beating up on my dispatcher instead.

Because I started so early to get to Elkhart that morning, I had to shut down shortly after I left the shipper which will screw me tomorrow as well. It turns out, the farthest I could go was back to that same truck stop in Morris, Illinois that I started the day at -- a first!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Shag, interrupted

So, how is your morning going? I made my drop in Chicago then was ordered to go shag a load from a nearby business to our drop yard on the south part of town. Here's how that turned out:

View all the cool pics here.

As you can see, my experiment to convert one of our refrigerated trailers into a pop-top was only partially successful. Thanks goes out to the City of Chicago with an unmarked low underpass for the assist.

Yes, I was going slow. My tractor escaped almost entirely unscathed. The trailer... not so much. I tried very hard to break my nose on the overhead console but I wasn't successful at that, either.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oh. My. God!

If you can't read this blog ( written by an 84 year-old granny without cracking up you simply aren't human.

Staging for Chicago

Today was a mostly boring drive north along the length of Illinois. I did notice that the fuel in Missouri before I crossed over seemed to be a good deal less than what I paid in Little Rock yesterday. Another reason to avoid that particular stop I suppose.

Last night was chilly for Memphis, getting down to the mid 30's. Freezing is about the point that I start using my bunk heater at night and it is looking to be right in that area where I stopped near Chicago in preparation for arrival in the morning.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pittsburg... Texas?

The two Petsmart stops came and went with little trouble and by 0900 I was done and waiting on my next load. A few hours later, I was sent a load that I couldn't run with the hours I had available so I sent it back for something else. The problem was, it had to deliver about 1,250 miles away near Chicago and I only had 15 hours or so over that time period to run it in.

I was told to head in towards Dallas and they would work on something else. I suspected one of our CSRs would call one of their CSRs and say, "Hey, can we deliver that the following morning?" Turns out, White Castle is receiving the load and they thought that was a great idea. So I get the same load picking up in Pittsburg, Texas at the same time as before, but delivering a day later. Nifty.

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The Pilgrim's Pride distribution center was easy enough to find and after a couple hours of waiting I got a fully loaded trailer and a passel of paperwork. They even had a scale there at the plant, though I had to do the axle weights myself. They even have high tech temperature recorders that go in with the load to make sure everything stays chilly enough.

I made the mistake of fueling at the Pilot on the east side of Little Rock, Arkansas. The pumps there are always packed -- I even had to wait ten minutes or so out on the street before I was able to pull into the parking lot!

Afterwards it was a couple hours more to West Memphis, Arkansas for the night and a nice shower. Clean is good.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Attack of the Lazies

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I swear, my goal today was to travel from Joplin, Missouri all the way to the dock of the Petsmart in Midland, Texas. I steeled myself and passed up a number of truck stops, Dairy Queens and the like along the way until the sweet siren song of Popeye's chicken at the Big Spring, Texas T/A overwhelmed my reserve of willpower. So, that's where I am for the night; up at 0330 to finish the rest of the run into Midland tomorrow morning for an early unload, then off about 90 miles to the southeast to complete the run.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The weekend trip cometh

Around 0900 on Friday the satellite unit went off with a hot-hot-hot run from our yard in Omaha out to Minooka, Illinois. It seems a trailer we've been holding for at least 10 days was due to deliver that very afternoon. I told my dispatcher that I couldn't get rolling for an hour because my clothes were in the dryer but that was fine. Meanwhile, I got the bills, found the trailer, fueled my truck and got my 5th wheel greased.

Given my late departure, I gave an ETA of 1800 and that was when I rolled up to the gates of the Kellogg's facility in Minooka. The one poor gate guard was overwhelmed with eight or ten trucks trying to get in or out simultaneously so it took a while to get that sorted out.

Good news though: on the way to deliver I was sent a (rare) preplan. First, after I dropped the trailer I was to bobtail over to the Petsmart DC in Ottawa, Illinois then take a load from there down to west Texas for Monday morning. Better, I got to restock at the super Walmart just down the street from Petsmart and head through the house to pick up mail and such.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pulled in by the DOT

The trailer I picked up yesterday when I dropped at Walmart had a problem with the parking brake system. The air lines were hooked up wrong or something but the trailer itself braked just fine with the service system (the brakes that come on when you tap the brake pedal). In short, note to self about parking with the tractor brakes, which I always do.

Anyhow, exchanged messages with HQ about this and was told to bring said trailer by the yard here in Omaha instead of down the street at Pepsi. Oh, I was deadheaded about an hour away to Pryor, Oklahoma this morning to pick up a load of the burpsi stuff heading up here to the Omaha plant.

I chose to drive up Kansas highway 69 to Kansas City and I was pulled into a very small inspection station near Joplin. I was sweating bullets until I realized they were doing what was called a Level 3 inspection, which is just paperwork. License, medical card, registration book, medial card, 20 dollar bill, etc. Well, no money changed hands, but I had to print off eight day's worth of logs to show them how nice I am. The DOT officer agreed with this assessment and let me go with a clean bill of health. Hill Bros pays drivers $25 when you pass such an inspection so that should put the bank account over the top next week.

Made it into Omaha around 1600, put the trailer into the trailer shop. Then I put my tractor into the ThermoKing shop to have a small coolant leak fixed. I should have had my next load lined up already but for some reason preplans have been few and far between of late. You'll have to wait until tomorrow to see if my dispatcher is praised or cursed for a long weekend run or some nasty dispatch no one wants.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ochelata, Oklahoma

A few hours after I dropped my load of chicken bouillon in Independence, Missouri the satellite unit went off with new orders: deadhead up to Council Bluffs, Iowa and take a load from there to the Walmart Distribution Center in Ochelata, Oklahoma. Thank goodness my GPS could find it.

I decided to run through our HQ before I picked up the load. This let me take the trailer through our Safety Lane for a quick checkup, get my truck and the reefer fueled up and see my homies. Oh, and pick up a couple hundred pounds of chains for my new chain box.

The load was supposed to be ready around 1530 hours but I wasn't able to leave with it until closer to 1800. I ran about a 40 miles south along I-29 to a truck stop and spent the night before crossing over back into Nebraska and taking Hwy 75 south for hundreds of miles to Ochelata.

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For the first time ever in my experience, this Walmart load was an open appointment. I could bring it in any time I wanted today and they would be fine with that. Another one of our trailers was just being towed off to the empty lot as I arrived so I dropped mine in the inbound line and grabbed the empty. It was pouring rain the entire way down from Nebraska and it didn't let up, so I got soaked pretty good while switching trailers and taking the paperwork in to the clerks.

Tonight finds me across the road from the DC in an unpaved lot with space for about 20 trucks. This area is very rural and I suspect this lot was used as a construction marshaling yard during the construction process and trucks get to use it now after they are done across the street. Someone with some bucks should drop a small truck stop here and make a mint.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I'll take a dangerous trip for $800, Alex

After I got done with Americold in Minooka, Illinois, I moved off west along the interstate to the nearby rest area and took one of the last available spots. Lucky, since it was late at night.

Come morning time, the new orders arrived: head north about an hour or so to St Charles, Illinois and take a load from there to Independence, Missouri due by 0800 the following day. Total miles were about 550 which is a solid day's drive but I wasn't dispatched until late in the morning and the load wasn't on my trailer until early afternoon.

Now, as far as the regulations go, I could drive directly from the shipper to the consignee with no problems. My body, however, doesn't want to work that way so about sixty percent of the way there I really, really wanted to shut down and take a nap. But noooo, the way the regs are written say that if I shut down I'll have to take a full 10 hours off and miss my appointment time. Or keep going even though I'm very tired and could potentially be a threat to myself and others on the road.

The preferred method to handle this would be to pull off into a rest area or truck stop and take a solid 5-7 hour nap then finish out the trip. The legal, but less safe method would be to just keep on driving, fighting my body and its need to rest. I arrived on time the following morning and in one piece. You can decide for yourself which method I chose to utilize.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Easy weekend trip

I dropped off my trailer in Omaha, as planned then waited around a few hours until the planners got caught up with things and started handing out assignments. I was told to take a trailer there at the yard to Minooka, Illinois for a live unload tonight. Roughly 550 miles for almost two days, easy driving.

Stopping at Iowa 80 in Walcott, Iowa, I bought a chain box and had it installed behind my cab just in front of my catwalk. The catwalk itself had to be pushed back about five inches but that wasn't a big deal. I spent some time reworking my air line holders to keep the airlines up a bit higher off of the catwalk, as there is now a new place where they could get caught when I'm making right turns and I don't want to have them ripped apart.

Turns out it is an AmeriCold load so the unloading process was needlessly complicated and slow.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Double Wild Turkey Strike

I know, it sounds like a special move you make in a video game (eg "Bob uses his Double Wild Turkey Strike to decapitate his opponent!"). But it really happened to my truck today. Here's how:

I was minding my own business in the middle of Kansas, about to turn off of the state highway I was on to Interstate 70. On my left was a low hill with dozens of large wild turkeys squatting down doing whatever turkeys do when they aren't being tuned up to be turned into lunch meat.

Suddenly, a couple of them take off and the whole flock takes to the air. Now, I have to believe that the ones in front had it in for some of the guys behind them since they flew right across the road about six feet off the ground and the bird brains behind them followed in formation. KER-SMACK! Two of them strike my windshield with a loud crash and the carcasses were flung off into the ditch. One of them showed its last full measure of displeasure as the crap was, literally, knocked out of it.

About thirty minutes later I'm at a truck stop in Salina, Kansas cleaning off my windshield and telling the guy next to me "You won't believe what just happened, and its the truth!"

Believe it or not, despite hitting them at 60 MPH my windshield wasn't cracked.

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I ended up today in Knox, Nebraska, about two hours from Omaha. The satellite unit tells me that fuel tomorrow at the yard is dropping to just $2.86 a gallon so you can be sure I'm going to get all up into that puppy. Yes sir.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stampeed to the east

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Today I ran from Kingman, Arizona to Tucumcari, New Mexico with a short break in Winslow, Arizona to fuel up. West of Albuquerque I saw a bunch of dust rising from the area just off the highway to the right and thought it was a pickup off on the side, but it turns out there were a dozen or so cattle frightened by a passing train and they were stampeding. Not sure that few cattle qualifies, but it was interesting to watch.

Got to the Loves in Tucumcari and decided to try the Chesters fried chicken. One thing about Popeyes, they are very consistent with their quality. Chesters is cheaper and a bit different, but the quality varies all over the place. Unfortunately, tonight wasn't a good quality night for them. Or me.

Got various communications via email and the satellite unit on detention pay, drop pay, this and that. Basically, some is due me and is coming, a bit is still being looked in to, and some I'm just shit outta luck on. The usual mix for a driver, I think.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Double Inversion

This morning I was up at my usual early hour, made even earlier by the time zone difference in California. I needed to get in to the LA area and across to the other side before the traffic became murderous and I'm happy to report that there were no traffic issues.

On the way into the LA basin area the temperature was around 77 degrees. Once I dropped down into the basin itself along the foothills highway (210) it dropped to 63 degrees. In meteorology this is referred to as an inversion: a layer of warmer air above colder. This is one of the reasons LA has smog problems, as the air below is trapped underneath the inversion and can't circulate.

I was reflecting on this when I arrived in Carson, California at the UPS facility near the Port of Long Beach. Basically, this facility takes the 40 foot containers that come in from overseas and break down and repalletize the product for shipment within the US. 18,000 pounds of athletic equipment in the load I was to pick up, for instance.

Here is where the second inversion took place. Only, this was a common Cranial-Rectal inversion, better known as having ones head up ones ass. The gate guards filled out a bunch of paperwork checking my truck and trailer in, but they couldn't find the load. So I eventually sweet-talked them into letting me go inside and talk with someone in the warehouse, and behold! There was my load all ready to go behind dock door 15. Only, my appointment wasn't until 1000 and this was about 0400.

No problem, drop the trailer in back in the yard (not at the door) and take your tractor off of the lot, rather than park it next to the other half-dozen bobtails back there. Find someplace to park on the street and come back in roughly five hours... and we'll do it all again.

I spent my time productively, putting finishing touches on my generic warehouse worker voodoo doll and catching some extra snooze time. I arrive back at the gate around 0830 and the same routine begins again. They still can't find the order, they still have to log my truck in, check my ID, you name it.

Someone is scared up to order the yard jockey to take my empty trailer from the back lot, bring it up front and push it into door 15. Now that they are loading me, I'm sent to the bobtail area in the back lot to wait. At least until they knock on my door and tell me I need to witness the loading. March back up front, witness the loading, march back to truck for stupid form they didn't ask for, march back to dock to sign various paperwork in blood, march back to truck with paperwork and a neato aluminum seal thingee, and wait. Wait for yard dog guy to go grab my trailer from the dock and bring it out back.

I could go on, but why? Eventually I was freed from the asylum and made my way east along the first leg of my trip back to Omaha. I stopped tonight in Kingman, Arizona and plan on driving to Tucumcari, New Mexico tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Carson, California to Sioux Falls, South Dakota

I'm here near Victorville, California taking a 34-hour break to reset my logbook and the next load information has popped up. Tomorrow morning I take some UPS freight from Carson, California back to the midwest. Its about 1,900 miles and I have five days to do it in.

Well... actually I'll be dropping it at the Omaha yard on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning and get something else to run over the weekend.

I learned my lesson in the past few days... I'm taking the southern route this time:

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The computer tells me that I'll be able to fuel in Winslow, Arizona for under $3.00 a gallon. It will be nice not putting in 800-1000 bucks into the tanks at one swoop for a change.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Unloaded in Victorville, California

I got up early this morning to get fuel and get my truck washed before I left Vegas. Fueling was quick at 0400 local time but I had to wait behind several trucks at truck wash. I had them do the engine as well this time as there was a lot of gunk that came up off the road and splattered everything.

Victorville was about four hours away and when I pull up to the Americold facility I note with more than a little amusement that their guard shack is optimistically labeled "Welcome Center". I should have taken a photo.

It turns out that no one at HQ bothered to call them to reschedule the appointment so we had to fork over a ransom payment of $100 for the right to unload those frozen dinners. If you wonder why the price of food is so high...

At least this place has those cool dock doors that you don't even open up the trailer at. Back it into a door and they handle everything inside. Just under two hours later I was done and headed to a nearby truck stop.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Its c-c-cold! (pt 2)

Wyoming DOT eventually lifted the chain restrictions on westbound I-80 so I and about half of the parking lot at the Flying J departed. There was a FedEx truck pulling doubles ("wiggle wagons" in trucker parlance) that had wiped out a mile or so east on the eastbound side of I-80 so there was quite a backup going that direction.

A few miles down the road brought the first of several trucks pulling doubles off to the side of the road:

Then there was this character pulling a 53 footer who looks like he wanted to convert it on the fly to doubles: (small part of the image, click it to enlarge)

My truck and trailer didn't emerge completely unscathed. You can see the ice, sand, salt and who-knows-what built up on every lower surface:

View the entire album of today's pictures here.

I made it out to the north side of Vegas for the night. I need to fuel and get my truck washed when I get up tomorrow morning and finish my slog in to Victorville, Califfornia. The weather channel had talked up the Santa Anna winds blowing in from California through Vegas but it was peaceful all the way from Salt Lake City, Utah to Vegas.

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Its c-c-cold!

Here is the catwalk area of my truck, between the tractor and trailer:

The front of my truck and the guy on my left (white Swift Freightliner) who parked in the construction area:

You can see that flatbedder down at the end ghetto parked in front of the construction equipment:

View the entire album here.

I screwed up

Okay, there you have it. In big print even.

I was given a short load from Independence, Missouri up to Council Bluffs, Iowa on Friday that let me just squeak into this week's safety meeting before I delivered. There are some changes in the office, it seems: the new recruit trainer Scott has departed and there was a lively discussion from the safety folks about running legal logs, the operations people are evil, safety will be checking logs, drivers must stick together and only run legally so the evil operations people don't run you over, and safety will REALLY REALLY be checking logs. Oh, and if you aren't in safety then you are basically evil.

Good thing I'm a boy scout when it comes to running my truck.

After the meeting I ran across the river to the ConAgra plant in Council Bluffs and dropped off my load and tried to get my next load, heading out to Victorville, California. Alas, it wasn't ready and wouldn't be for another three or four hours so I got to wait. It was then I made my mistake.

See, there are basically three routes from the upper midwest out to southern California. The shortest, and nastiest by far, is to run I-70 through Denver, go up over the Eisenhower summit then take I-15 south. The next shortest, and the best one to run in good weather in my opinion, is to take I-80 through Nebraska and Wyoming, dropping down into Utah to take I-15 south. The longest, and the one that involves considerable state highway driving, is to head south along I-35 towards Emporia, Kansas, then over towards Dodge City, Kansas, then diagonally southwest to Tucumcari, New Mexico, then take I-40 west the rest of the way.

Instead of gathering relevant information about the trip first (read: weather reports) I tossed a coin and chose the Wyoming route along I-80.

As many of you now know, there is a large area of low pressure over the Rockies. Low pressure areas are kind of like vacuum cleaners, they suck in air from around them which brings lots of funky weather. Funky meaning cold-as-hell blasts of air from the north mostly, in this case.

Near the end of my driving day yesterday it was snowing and there was an impressive five-mile stretch of ice on the interstate. Several big rigs jackknifed, along with a number of four-wheelers that spun out into the ditch. No place to pull off (or desire... the ramps were frozen solid) so many of us hugged the right shoulder to use the rumble strip along the edge to (a) rattle any fillings in our mouths and (b) gain a little traction. One good thing about 40,000+ pounds of cargo in the trailer is that my truck had much better traction than most.

Wyoming DOT eventually shut down the eastbound traffic and slapped a number of chain restrictions on the passes near the Utah border along I-80.

I stopped at Rock Springs, Wyoming and got one of the last parking places at the Flying J. Well, it took some ghetto parking (the people paving the lot could argue I moved a cone here or there, I'm sure) but nothing like the guy who came in after and parked next to me, knocking down several cones in the process. Hope that new paving holds up.

My APU kicked out a nice gout of oil on to the ground when I started up the heater (for only the second time; I tested it once when I got the truck). It ran fine the rest of the night, though with a mildly unpleasant odor. Think the smell of singed hair.

How are conditions this morning, you ask?

I may be here a while.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The incomperable Betty White

Setting the record straight on current political events:

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Yesterday I departed Milwaukee, Wisconsin just before the worst part of the afternoon rush started and it turns out there wasn't a truck stop with a scale between there and where I ended up last night. No big deal, there isn't a weigh station until you get into Illinois anyway, and right at the Wisconsin / Illinois border are a Pilot, Flying J and independent truck stop, each with a scale.

I first went to the Flying J and scaled my load, but the printout that resulted was ridiculous. It showed my total weight at around 56,000 pounds which was (as it turns out) almost 24,000 pounds light. I complained when I got the printout and they had me go back around to scale again after they reset the mechanism.

Second time through it shows me at about 80,400 pounds which is a much more believable number, given that I have (apparently) over 20 tons of beef in back. Still, I was a bit hesitant to use the results from their scale so I went across the street to the independent truck stop and use the CAT scale there.

That scale reported my gross weight as 80,460. Unfortunately, I'm allowed only 80,000 total, with no more than 34,000 on my set of four drive tires and another 34,000 on my trailer tandems. I realized I would have to adjust my sliding fifth wheel to move a thousand pounds or so forward on to my steer tires and also slide the tandems back to shift about 2,000 pounds forward on to my drives.

The result?

Steers: 12,100
Drives: 34,320
Tandems: 34,040

Basically, a perfect adjustment. The feds allow APU-equipped trucks a 400 pound weight increase so long as it ends up on your drives, so I'm clear there. My steers are rated at 12,300 and I'm only carrying 40 extra pounds on my tandems. Given the hundreds of pounds of adjustment that happens with any sliding of my tandems there just isn't a better weight distribution. Plus, as I burn fuel (approximately one pound of fuel per mile as I drive) the weight will come mostly from the drives, and a bit from the steers.

Still, I was a bit concerned heading into Illinois. Not every state agrees with the APU weight increase and I don't recall if this is one of those states. Believe it or not, I get green lights on my Prepass for both open scales I ran across so I never even had to pull in!

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The drive out to Marshall, MO was tedious, with lots of back roads and state highways in Missouri. Those three "bonus" miles I got in yesterday's report were used up when I had to take a detour around a closed bridge over the Missouri river. I was hoping they would last, too.

For some reason, I keep getting preplans that I'm not legally able to run. Today's first illegal preplan involved me taking a load from the same town I'm delivering and running it down to Russellville, Arkansas for 0300 tomorrow morning. Since I've only got an hour or two left to drive today and that trip was over 300 miles (across some of the shittiest roads I've ever been across) it wasn't difficult to decline. The second proposed load had me picking up in Kansas City then running up to Omaha by 0500 tomorrow, which I couldn't make legally for the same reason. Finally, a third junky load showed up that I could actually run legally, going from the caves in Independence, Missouri up to the ConAgra plant in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Picks up tomorrow morning and doesn't deliver until the following day, but that's fluff since we drop trailers there 24/7.

Fuel at our yard was $3.34 today and is going down to $3.32 tomorrow. Fuel prices are crashing as our economy slows way down and people do now what they should have been doing all along: conserving energy.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Simple day

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Got up early, cruised on in to the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area and dropped that trailer at a Cargil plant. Picked up an empty there and drove about eight miles away to yet another Cargil plant where I picked up 20 tons of beef patties heading to Marshall, Missouri for tomorrow afternoon.

For the first time ever at Hill Bros, my GPS distance from start to finish on this trip is less than the paid miles. They are paying me 511 miles and its really only going to take 508. I'm putting those puppies in the bank, bet on it.

I watched meat being "processed" by a large machine at the first Cargil plant for about ten minutes while they were figuring out the paperwork. Processed meaning chunks were entering this machine from a large hopper overhead into some sort of processing apparatus, and an operator looked on as they fell down on to a high speed conveyor belt thing that moved them over to a storage bin. Strange to watch... I'm pretty sure they were working on beef but it wasn't recognizable as such. Just "meat".

That didn't stop me from getting a burger (well, a Wisconsin Swiss melt) at the Culver's in Delavan, Wisconsin where I stopped for the night.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kansas City, Waukee and Milwaukee

... or, said another way, the past, present and future.

This morning it was Kansas City, Kansas. The shipper didn't mind me spending the night in their parking lot "so long as you're gone before first shift gets in tomorrow." I blew out of town at 0400 with no first shift in evidence.

Three hours later I was in Omaha at my first drop. Turns out, my instructions and the way the trailer was loaded were reversed. I took matters into my own hands and went to the second consignee first whereupon I find a ridiculous backing situation. It is hard to describe in words, and I had no time to take a photo, but basically it was a business at the corner of a curved street with a small parking lot with no way to back in to the dock they wanted without going over the curb. Over the curb it was.

The second consignee was an easy drop and as soon as I was done there I took my truck over to the local Volvo Truck dealership to have them look at my air suspension. When I started up this morning it was like someone had used a needle on a balloon overnight -- I had no air pressure at all. My rear air suspension was flat, the trailer brakes were set, the works.

Turns out there was a connection in the rear of my tractor that had developed a leak and it was put right suspiciously quickly. They even installed new front curtains for the truck to replace the original ones that came with busted tabs.

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As for the present, tonight I'm stopped in a rest area in Waukee, Iowa just west of Des Moines. A load was presented heading up to Wisconsin for delivery tomorrow and I spent most of the afternoon at a meatpacking plant in Omaha having my trailer loaded. Some of these plants are so small it is basically steers going in one end of the building and WHAP! burgers out the other a short time later. If you remember that chicken load I had the other day from Chattanooga with the large cardboard containers and plastic liners, it was the same thing here. Worse, when I came to a hard stop just before reaching the freeway there was a disconcerting liquid motion that rocked my entire truck forward and back a few times as it settled.

Tomorrow is an easy ride from Waukee to Milwaukee to complete the trip.

Monday, October 6, 2008

By the house, in passing

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Around 0800 this morning I was beeped. Take a load of refrigerated stuff from the Russellville, Arkansas Americold plant up to Kansas City, Kansas. The load was ready last night and I would have loved to have been rolling early but it wasn't to be.

On the way up to KC I stopped in Joplin and my brother drove by and dropped off my mail and some packages. Now a new, large screen Garmin GPS graces my dash. Slightly different interface from the old 660 but the screen itself is nice. I need to see about getting the truck stop Points Of Interest database loaded up on it so I can zip to them easily, as I can on the 660.

A preplan found its way to me. Loading in nearby Lenexa, Kansas this evening and due up in Omaha with two drops in the morning. I would have liked to pick it up early and run up to Omaha tonight, but the product isn't ready and the consignees probably aren't expecting a big empty trailer to greet them tomorrow morning.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A relaxing weekend

It turns out the dispatcher dude was off by 24 hours - I didn't get a new load until Monday morning. Meantime, I was sent deadhead over to Russellville, Arkansas to await said load.

Friday, October 3, 2008

South of Atlanta, Georgia

I delivered my load of Hungry Man frozen dinners yesterday afternoon to the distribution center in McDonough, Georgia but the appointment wasn't until 0100 this morning and they didn't take it early. While I snoozed they were offloading the product and once complete I started my new day's run up to Chattanooga, Tennessee, then over to Batesville, Arkansas.

For some reason, night dispatch decided to come to life around 0200 this morning and ask why I wasn't running already. Seems they had received a phone call from the plant in Chattanooga and they needed trailers up there ASAP. Why said night dispatcher didn't read the messages I had exchanged with my dispatcher the day before that covered the situation is beyond me. Since I had my alarm set to go off shortly anyway, I didn't scream too loudly at him.

The run up to Atlanta is very smooth around 0300 I find. By sunrise, I've been shown to a door at the plant in Chattanooga and twenty pallets with "combos" have been shoved aboard. Think cardboard crates with the top open, industrial-strength garbage pail liners and a ton of chicken parts sitting inside. Better yet, they are marinating in some sort of clear goop which burbles up and over the top and on to the floor of the trailer then out the back vent holes as I go down the street. That vaguely chicken smell your nose comes across while on your way to work? Could have been me.

A quick scale and I'm off to Memphis then the wilds of Arkansas. I'm right at the end of my legal hours when I arrive, get offloaded, then find a place to park it for the night.

My dispatcher and his offer of a Saturday trip over to lovely Green Forest, Arkansas via state highways was turned down. He sounded almost apologetic when he told me that there wasn't anything else available on Saturday. I sounded almost apologetic when I said it sounds like a great time for a 34-hour reset.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The only thing worse than a broke GPS...

... is a broke GPS that works for about 90 seconds.

See, my Garmin 660 turns on and acts normal for about a minute and a half, then for some reason it can't find the satellites any more and stops giving directions. This isn't an issue with my truck or other devices inside, as I've taken it outside at a rest area and it happens there as well.

So, now when I'm near someplace I have to go I try to time it, so when I'm a few miles away I power up the unit then let it steer me in the last few turns. This tactic worked when I was trying to find the trailer washout place this morning, but didn't work at all when I headed over to the shipper.

Amazon has my new unit being delivered to the house tomorrow morning. Hopefully I can run through there sometime this weekend to pick up my mail and this very important gadget.

Today's load is heading to Georgia and consists of 35,000 pounds of Hungry Man dinners. I tried a few years ago and when I was through, I wasn't hungry any more so they must work.

The loading took forever (5 hours). I have to chat with the person in charge of detention at HQ to go over quite a list of loads in the past month where I have spent more than the allotted two hours being loaded or unloaded.

The cheapest fuel along my route was at the Pilot in Little Rock, Arkansas. Utterly ridiculous parking situation and a 30-minute wait just to reach the pumps. I should have gone on to West Memphis and paid a few more cents.

My next load is already planned, for a change: I'm going to deadhead up to Chattanooga, Tennessee to the non-regurgitated chicken ass factory (long story; use the search function if you're really interested in the back story) to take a load back out to Arkansas. Picks up and delivers day after tomorrow at my convenience, which is, well, convenient.