Monday, August 31, 2009

Waiting and reading and catching up

I'm here at the Ralph's DC in Riverside, California. Saw some news coverage of the wildfires just north of here and that they are advising surgical-style masks for people with breathing issues. I'm not one of those, but I'm still going to stay inside and keep the AC on, not least of which because its over 100 degrees outside.

Oh, and apparently there is a freaking hurricane on the way to southern California. The one freaking time in recent memory I'm out here, sheesh.

I've been going through some of the reports that Google Analytics comes up with showing traffic patterns, referral sites and the like. It is amazing how much information Google has on what people click on the web.

Anyway, I've been reading up some of the other blogs that have, for whatever reason, decided to link to this one. If you think I've been through some trials and tribulations, you might want to take a gander at VBob's OTR Journal -- this guy started at Millis, had to quit, got rehired, had to quit then got rehired again! At least I think that is how many times that cycle has happened -- I'm not through the 2009 posts yet. Show him some reading love.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mountains and wind and wildfires, oh my!

Regular readers of this forum know by now that I tend to be fairly lazy about my driving. By which I mean, miles that don't have to be run until tomorrow generally are left to be run tomorrow. Friday was no different.

I got the loaded trailer straight from the dock at ConAgra in Council Bluffs, Iowa in the late afternoon. Since the cargo was only 32,000 lbs or so there was no reason to scale out and I hit the pavement heading west. By 2100 or so I was nearing Lexington, Nebraska (which regular readers also know is home to My Favorite Wal-Mart) and I decided to pack it in for the night.

Now, I probably should have gone on for a few more hours. The trip out to California is 1,520 miles or so and if I had done only 450 or so my task on Saturday and Sunday would have been easier. But, this is a load with a 1400 appointment out in California so there isn't much need to rush, so the miles left to run were left to run, so to speak.

Saturday morning I was up bright and early (it sure is bright around 10 AM) and I mushed west some more. After five hours or so I made it to Denver and fueled up at the Pilot then continued on I-70 across the Eisenhower and Vail summits. For those of you from elsewhere on the planet not familiar with the Rockies, they are a big-ass range of mountains that divides the far western US from the midwest. This photo, taken several years ago from over 12,000 feet shows the tops of some of these mountains:

Even with the average weight load I was hauling my small engine struggled mightily to climb up the steep grades and my fuel economy sucked badly until I got to the far side.

As darkness was falling I decided to stop at a rest area in Fruita, Colorado. I managed to park next to a "WWE" wrestling truck with large photos of various entertainers plastered on the side. If that is how they get around no wonder they look pissed off all the time.

I awoke to moderate winds this morning and as I made my way west along I-70 the intensity kept building. By the time I made Richfield, Utah and pulled off to use the little driver's room some of the gusts were 35-45 MPH with lots of dust and grit in the air. There was even a whiff of something burning and my eyes were starting to water.

For a while I thought maybe it was smoke from the fires out in the southern California area but that didn't make sense given the distance I was at. Eventually, I came across a large wildfire in the southern part of Utah near the border with Arizona and that explained the smell.

Today's driving concluded at a truck stop in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was considering driving another hour or so but, you know, those damn lazies caught up with me again.

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The (e)mail bag

When I started my first blog it had one of my email addresses displayed but after a time I ran out of time to answer each of the emails personally. So, I discontinued the practice.

Now there are many more readers of my old and new blogs and my time is still at a premium, yet a few enterprising souls have managed to send in missives via Picasa or YouTube comments and the like.

Therefore, I have come up with a compromise:

I'm going to start an occasional (e)mail bag feature here on the Lease Purchase Journal blog where I answer questions submitted by you, the gentle reader. Since I still don't have much time I can't promise a personal, private reply but if you have something you've wanted to ask, praise or criticize for some time this will give you an outlet.

The address for the (e)mail bag is OTRjournal (at) gmail (dot) com. If you are at all familiar with email addresses you will recognize the address intended and your email will make its way to my attention.

I will post the questions (edited for content, readability and the like) and responses occasionally here on the blog.

(At the time of this writing, Google Analytics shows approximately 2,000 readers each month who get their fix via the website; an unknown quantity receive updates via RSS/Atom/etc. Thus, I'm outnumbered by a fair margin.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

The end of the line...

... for my trailer.

After unloading this morning I drove back to the yard and took my rig through our safety lane to be inspected. The trailer I have is one of the oldest in the fleet and apparently its number found its way on to the sell off sheet. Instead of worrying about its lights, brakes or insulation it was instead fitted with a red tag marked "SOLD" and I dropped it off in our farthest lot. I've been a driver now for almost three years and this is the first time I recall that happening.

Good news! The Powers That Be assigned me a trip from Council Bluffs, Iowa out to Riverside, California for Monday morning delivery. This means 1,520 uninterrupted blissful miles then the potential for an equally long trip back to the midwest. I urged my dispatcher to check on the condition of the load planner in question, as apparently his palsy must be acting up if he managed to key in my truck number for such a load. Not that I'm complaining.

The load is only about 30,000 pounds which is a very light one coming out of ConAgra. Since my Little Engine That Could and I have to run over Eisenhower and Vail summits in Colorado along the way this is a Good Thing.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

This cracker is in Omaha

Today's journey was short and sweet. Short in that I only had to drive about 280 miles to Omaha, Nebraska and sweet in that this week is Driver's Appreciation week and Hill Bros is having a cookout each day in one of the buildings, with lots of free food and drink. You don't have to tell drivers about this twice, I note.

I offered to tcall the trailer here at the yard since I had hours to run but there wasn't enough freight and I was told to deliver it tomorrow morning. Thus, after ransacking the free vittles I drove over to the west side of town to the local truck stop for a shower, which happens to be less than a mile away from the Kraft warehouse I deliver at 0600.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New day, new swap

My body decided I needed to be awake earlier than I set my alarm for. This required a quick dressing session and speed walking to the Flying J building, then a consultation with the porcelain goddess. Is she ever a relief.

Since the other driver I met last night had a load himself, I had to deliver it today about 270 miles northwest in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Everything went smoothly until I actually arrived in Fort Dodge then all hell broke loose.

They are doing some major road destruction in the downtown area and it was directly in the path I needed to take to get to the beer distributor waiting patiently for the 22 tons of suds I had in back. I had to make several tight corners and work my way back out of some narrow streets before I got back to the main road and found another way in to my target.

This is one of the things I don't understand about those (few) drivers who do not care for GPS units. If I didn't have one today I would have been completely borked and it would have taken a long time to get to the distributor. Instead, I zoomed in the map a bit and played around with routes until I made one that went around the blockage and in about five minutes I was chatting with the beer folks in person.

Unloading was the typical slow, we're-in-no-hurry affair I discuss so often. After all the pallets had been removed and only some plastic bulkheads remained the guy doing the unloading went off to an office for a 15-20 minute break. He may have been handling some sort of paperwork but why is any of that my concern? He took the bills with him and when he came back one was signed and he handed it to me after taking care of the bulkheads. Perhaps I aggravate easily, I don't know.

My new orders were in place and I had to deadhead about 105 miles to Marshalltown, Iowa to yet another Swift meatpacking plant that does everything different, yet again. This place has you go past the trailer lot first to the next entrance where you find the washout company, but you back into the dock then keep your trailer once they are done. But you close the doors and seal them with a white seal, which of course you don't do at the Swift plant I was at yesterday. Then you take the paperwork back to the trailer lot and check in at their guard shack and, if you're lucky, your load is ready and all you have to do is drop your empty trailer in a very muddy and pothole-ridden lot. If you are unlucky, you still get to drop but then you get to wait in said lot. Such is your lot in life.

Turns out, we have two loads going to Elkhart, Indiana for 0600 tomorrow morning. The one I was waiting for was MIA, the other load was ready to go. Perfect.

I inform dispatch what the deal is and sit down for dinner. *BEEP* goes the satellite unit.

Eh!? My masters say they've switched loads and I can leave now with the one that is ready. Be still my heart!

I race to get everything taken care of (get paper with trailer number on it; find trailer, hook up, pretrip; scale out; park; walk back to guard shack with paperwork) and leave before someone changes their mind. Biff, bam, boom soon I'm rolling.

Today's trip is, again, a bit too much for a solo driver to legally log. This entails another switch, this time in Atalissa, Iowa. The new driver is ready to go so we swap trailers and paperwork and he boogies, as much as you can boogie with 44,000 pounds of pig in back that is. I hook up to his relatively light (35,000 lb) load heading to Omaha and am calling it a night.

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Swapped load

Yesterday I was told to deadhead from Omaha to Worthington, Minnesota for a load heading to Washington, Missouri. The shipper was a Swift plant (big meatpacking concern) that processes pigs into pork products.

On arrival I followed signs directing me to a business down the street that handles trailer washouts. After a small bit of confusion I get directed to a door and my trailer got a nice bath and a once-over by an inspector. Passing muster, I'm told to drop it somewhere in the large lot and they will handle its movement from then on.

My new trailer is in a nearby lot and eventually I figure out how to get the paperwork... on every day but Sunday you simply go to the same truck washing business and they have the paperwork there. Odd, but every Swift place makes it up completely from scratch.

Trailer attached, paperwork in hand and codes punched into satellite unit I set off across the street to get scaled out. The load is heavy, but I have it right the first time so I nearly sprain my elbow patting myself on the back.

Out to the street to get on to I-90 but the eastbound ramp is closed so I got to drive through lovely downtown Worthington. Once is enough for me.

Since the trip was a bit too long for me to legally complete in one day my dispatcher found a truck with more hours that I could swap with in Alexandria, Missouri. I arrived after dark and we swapped trailers and paperwork, and the other driver headed off into the night to finish off that journey.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Underground in Valmeyer, Illinois

I forgot that I shot some videos of one of the caves I've delivered to. Here is a two-parter for your viewing pleasure:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Monday, August 24, 2009

Things we work for

This past weekend was a bit more interesting than normal. On Friday I sat down in the office of a title company and finished the (lengthy) paperwork required in the purchase of a new home.

I have been searching for just the right place for the past three months and the confluence of interest rates under five percent, house prices off a third from their peak and that wonderful $8,000 tax incentive pushed me off the sidelines and into the real estate market.

The weekend was spent with a very lengthy list of things to purchase and install, like a new refrigerator, blinds, lawn mower, carpet mower (vacuum) and the like. I'm definitely doing my part for fiscal stimulus.

This morning we returned to the truck and Snowie is beside herself with joy:

I'm picking up at the Buske underground location in Springfield as usual to run up to Omaha, Nebraska for tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Beer Hell

Yesterday morning I drove to Eau Claire, Wisconsin to pick up one of our reefers then east about four hours to Milwaukee for a load of beer from the Miller people. This is the first Miller plant I've been to before and if it is representative of the lot they have a lot of catching up to do with the Budweiser folks.

The check-in procedure was a bit weird. Go to one guard shack, pick up some paperwork, park truck and go to a "driver's lounge" where you use one of two phones to speak with the shipping people. Then, monitor the CB until they tell you what door to head to.

On the back of the paperwork the guard handed to me was a map and he told me to follow the clearly-marked path from the staging lot to where the shipping doors would be. I do so, but the doors there are numbered (roughly) 1-30 and my door is 70. On the back side of the building, perhaps? Nope, but I did get a football field length straight backing opportunity out of the exercise.

So I walk into the shipping office (which is at that building) and ask where the heck they are hiding my door and it turns out there are ten or so docks at some other building a quarter mile away. Back out to the street, make some tight turns, eventually pass through a gate then back into a diagonal slot dock.

Several hundred kegs of Miller Lite beer are forklifted into the trailer and I'm eventually turned loose with the paperwork. Just in time to head out of town in rush hour with 79,600 pounds of truck under me.

I stopped at one of the crappiest Pilot truck stops in the network, that being Beloit, Wisconsin for the night. Crappiest because of the way too tight parking lot and traffic that comes in from two directions on the same u-shaped piece of pavement. Backups galore.

The alarm goes off at 0345 this morning and I'm off. I didn't want to get up at that hour but my load had to deliver by 1400 and it was at least eight hours and a fill up to get to Kansas City. Roughly eight hours and a fill up later, I was there and got the beer off of the trailer speedily enough.

My dispatcher is well aware I need to be home tomorrow and I ask if I should stay where I am at the southern edge of Kansas City or head over to our yard. "Not much moving there, you'd better head to the yard." I do so.

Naturally, a few hours later the nothing much turns into a load sitting at our yard that needs to deliver across town in Lenexa, Kansas at the propitious hour of 0300 tomorrow. All of 15 miles of work on my part, plus wait for it to be unloaded and of course all of the paperwork. In exchange, I exact the promise they will assign me my dreaded Buske load and deadhead me there to pick it up on Monday.

We'll see how well that works out.

An Important Documentary

The Cove is a documentary filmed in secret in Japan. Watch the trailer and see the movie when it comes to a movie theater near you (it is in limited release now).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Switching sides

The trailer I got from the Budweiser plant in Fort Collins was one of our older ones and by the time it came to a rest at the distributor in Omaha the product inside was knocked around pretty good. My load locks were on the floor along with most of the dunnage, including one of those neat inflatable bag things to hold everything in place. Thankfully, the product itself still stood on the pallets and nothing had to be restacked.

I noticed the very rear of the trailer where the metal met the oak floor was bent upward and cautioned the dock supervisor to let his workers know that it was looking sketchy. Then I plugged in a trailer breakdown macro and waited to be unloaded.

The unloading went on and on, more than an hour after the truck before me had left. Then there was nothing heard or felt bumping around in back for a while and I went off to investigate. This is where I found the entire trailer filled nose-to-tail with plastic pallets and separators that the Bud folks use to shuttle their beer on.

Soon enough the manager came out and explained that this trailer was going to be used for today's backhaul to Fort Collins. I mentioned that the trailer was a bit damaged and in need of some TLC and he wisely decided to not bother putting a seal on it, since our maintenance folks would have to immediately tear it off to repair the floor (and anything else causing a ruckus back there).

I was instructed to pull the trailer from the door and drop it on the far side of the parking lot. This is when I realized I was simply being used as a yard jockey and my long wait had been solely for the reason of moving the trailer off the dock once it was loaded. Just another priceless moment in trucking that reinforces my adage: "A trucker's time is only worth something to that trucker, and no other."

The nearby Sapp's truck stop was a good place to take a shower and I took full advantage. My dispatcher also called to get the 411 on the broken-trailer-being-loaded-for-Fort-Collins situation and that got settled. My flu symptoms were still bothering me so I told him as long as we were short on freight in the area let the other drivers go ahead for a bit.

Later, he offered a run down to Atlanta, Georgia but the hours were short and I pointed out that I needed to be home this Thursday for some important matters. He spoke with the Georgia dispatcher to see if we had any freight that would slingshot me home from there and that didn't fly, either, so I was taken off of that load.

The QualComm went off an hour or so later and I was ordered to our yard to pick up a trailer headed to Mondovi, Wisconsin. Only 420 miles or so and I could deliver it any time the next day. Very few details on the load screen though.

I get over to the yard and head in for the paperwork only to find out I'm taking a brand new empty trailer belonging to a company called Marten out to their HQ in Wisconsin. Never one to pass up a light load in the summertime, I hooked up to the trailer and split. I even treated myself to a 63 mph pace for most of the way!

The final couple hours were over state highways in Iowa and Wisconsin, right as night was falling. This place was so far out in the boonies I had to dodge not one but two cows standing in the middle of the road. Arriving in tiny Mondovi I find the address listed on the bills but it turns out they have opened a new facility a mile or so away in just the past month. Getting to it was a bit of a problem because the industrial park in which it was located was so poorly lit, but the buildings themselves were first rate (even nicer than CFI's when I worked for them, which says something in my book).

The head mechanic was out on break when I arrived so I had chance to drop the trailer and park my truck before wandering around aimlessly. Then, a flurry of paperwork and he checked out the trailer to see if everything worked and I was off to a nearby dead-end street where I passed an uneventful night.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

This Ault to be fun

The people at the Sam's Club DC did their thing this morning in about the time frame I expected, and I was out of there by 1100 or so. A quick jaunt up the interstate to the Budweiser plant in Fort Collins and I swapped my empty for a trailer full of beer.

Ordinarily, when I head to the east from Fort Collins I just go north up I-25 to Cheyenne, Wyoming then turn on to I-80. My GPS showed a shorter route taking Colorado 14 due east from Fort Collins to I-76, which then connects to I-80 in Nebraska. The first town you come across along the way is Ault, Colorado, thus the title of this post.

The road was very straight and almost entirely one lane each way for just under 100 miles. Not too much traffic, though there were a number of bicyclists using the very narrow shoulder. One sneeze on my part and they would end up as a hood ornament real quick.

I stopped at Big Springs, Nebraska (I-80 exit 107) for yet another wonderful steak at the Sam Bass Saloon. From there it was about 340 miles to the Budweiser distributor in Omaha where I'm parked for the night, unloading to begin around 0600.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Da flu

Runny nose? Check. Sore throat? Check. Cycles of sweating and chills? Check.

I guess its the flu. Hopefully it is the new pig kind so I can put that puppy behind me. The symptoms were worst yesterday when I left Phoenix, so I only managed about 370 miles up to Jamestown, New Mexico where I fueled this morning.

A nice shower and some good hot food got me going this morning and I managed to rumble, stumble and fumble my way to the Pilot in Denver, Colorado. The load I picked up in Phoenix delivers tomorrow morning just north of here, then I'm preplanned on a beer load immediately after heading to Omaha. Hopefully the body will be up to all of that.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Made it to Phoenix. Waited in stupidly long line to get into PetSmart DC. Dropped trailer then drove back out to the street to park. Not feeling too great, going to get off to bed early and hopefully I feel better tomorrow.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Laziest. Driver. Ever.

Well, morning came and woke me up and I got my truck in the shop. My batteries have been acting up for the past month or so and I got tired enough of it that the $350 or so it cost to replace them seems like a good deal.

Of course, doing a simple changeout wouldn't do... there was one connector that wasn't attached to anything and when the new batteries were put in the engine would turn over but wouldn't catch and start. Another mechanic took a look and found a small, innocuous cable the first one had missed that goes to the ECU and that was why it wouldn't start.

I told my dispatcher that I would be ready to go Tuesday morning at 0400. He rewarded me by giving me a load picking up in Aurora, Nebraska and heading down to PetSmart in Phoenix again... just like last week.

It took almost an hour to hunt up an empty van trailer in Omaha... everything we had at the lot was either loaded or red tagged by the shop. I got sent over to the Nebraska Furniture Mart after one of our local drivers spotted a couple empties there.

The drive to Aurora was easy enough and the trailer I was picking up was loaded and ready to go. Even better: the tandems have that neat-o air slide system so I didn't have to pull a muscle trying to get the weight distributed properly. Scaled out on site, the guard did his thing with the paperwork and I was on my way.

Now, my plan was to head down to Salina, Kansas for a fill up then drive a few more hours to Dodge City, Kansas for the night. After I got showered and fed myself the dreaded lazies kicked in and I mentally surveyed the situation. It is about 1,100 miles from Salina to Phoenix which means two 550-mile days -- no problem for most drivers. Driving those few extra hours today would make the next couple days a bit shorter but that would require initiative and determination, and I was plum out of both.

So here I sit at the Bosselman Pilot. Tomorrow I'll run down the state highways to Tucumcari, New Mexico and end up in Santa Rosa or Moriarty, or even Albuquerque if I'm feeling up to it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Busy weekend

I haven't had many busy weekends this summer but boy howdy this last one made up for it.

That light load of PetSmart stuff was due in Denver Sunday morning at 0500 local time. I drove from Grants, New Mexico to Denver on Saturday and parked across the street from one of my favorite restaurants: Claim Jumper.

Now, I used to live in southern California and was a regular devotee of CJ but since I've been in the midwest it has literally been years since I stepped inside. The menu and portion sizes were as I remembered (huge), the quality great and the ambiance the same. If you haven't been to one yet and you have a chance, give it a try it really is that good. This was the something special I referenced in my last post.

Anyway, I remembered that there was a closed Circuit City across the street from Denver's CJ so I parked there along with a lot of other cars and trucks. Colorado is doing work on the 470 West route and it was backed up big time when I arrived, but not so much at 0400 the next morning. Not at all, really.

The PetSmart guy had my trailer unloaded by 0530 and I was on my way to my next stop: the Sierra Trading Outpost distribution center in Cheyenne, Wyoming. A couple hours of driving got me there, then the long wait began.

Our company takes a trailer full of their products heading to the UPS distribution hub in south Chicago every evening. My dispatch said it would be ready to go by 1700, but the warehouse folks told me it would be 1900. Since it is almost 950 miles due east to Chicago and it has to be there the following day by 1500, a solo driver like myself can't get it there legally. Thus, we t-call the load at our HQ in Omaha and another driver takes over.

The load was ready at 1900, which is really 2000 central time. So, I've been up since 0400 that morning and now it is almost nighttime and I have to drive another 500 miles. My least favorite part of trucking, by far.

I did nap a bit and had some chocolate on hand (for medicinal purposes only, mind you). Chocolate has caffeine so it is a mild stimulant and since I don't smoke or drink colas it is one of the few pick-me-ups I have access to.

The hours slowly went by and I kept myself entertained listening to an audio book that covers all the kings and queens of England from William the Conqueror in 1066 to the present. Fascinating stuff if you enjoy history -- for instance, I didn't realize there have been fewer kings and queens than US presidents! They have us beat hands down in the colorful character department however.

I had to stop midway to Omaha for a 45-minute power nap, then it was back on the road and listening to more court intrigue and such. By the time I was approaching Lincoln, about an hour away from Omaha, I started running into intermittent heavy fog. Fog is about the worst thing you can drive in and I slowed down and added nearly an hour to my travel time to be safe.

Finally, about 0430 I arrived at our company yard and hand off the trailer to the new driver then hit the sack.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Windy trip down to Phoenix

Wednesday and Thursday were spent chugging down the road, through Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico then on in to Arizona. I timed my 1900 arrival in Phoenix to avoid much of the evening rush and the 101 loop around the west edge of the city was busy but moving at full speed.

The PetSmart DC had a bit of a traffic jam with a line of five or six trucks trying to enter at once. Since I was shutting down for the night anyway I parked a block away and had dinner while the jam cleared up. Went in myself, dropped off the paperwork and trailer then back out to the street for a good night's rest.

The last 300 or so miles of the trip were increasingly windy and my truck was buffeted quite a bit descending to the Phoenix area. There was a nice rocking motion overnight that helped me get to sleep, though.

First thing this morning I flipped on my truck ignition to wake my QualComm from its sleep mode and entered a daily macro giving my mileage and hours. Within a minute it beeped at me and I had my next trip: take a load of (what I expect at least) flour from Phoenix to the Kansas City area for first thing Monday morning. Not a bad weekend trip, 1,200ish miles over three days but there was a snag: when I went back to the PetSmart lot to grab an empty van I was told they couldn't release any and in fact needed some more delivered!

I advised dispatch and waited for several hours while things percolated through the system and eventually was taken from the KC load and put on a PetSmart load. Better, it is one of the rare one-stop loads and only weighs 15,000 pounds! The hills north of Phoenix will quake before my tread!

Before anyone could change their minds I grabbed the (half) loaded trailer and punched in the codes to tell HQ I have the trailer and am underway. It was just after 0900 local time so the traffic was still heavy but the 101 was still moving well and in about 30 minutes Phoenix was fading away in my mirrors.

My truck easily powered up the hills of I-17 to Flagstaff then I turned right on to I-40 and took it to Winslow, Arizona for some shopping then Jamestown, New Mexico for fueling, then Grants, New Mexico for the night.

It was very windy all of today which was nice getting a push in the butt heading up towards Flagstaff but after turning east it was squarely on my right side and with such a light load I was blown around a bit. Still, given the choice, in summertime I'll stick with the light load.

I'm planning something special for tomorrow so stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"No thanks, I'll t-call in Omaha."

Monday morning brought orders to pick up a load of spuds from nearby Minden, Nebraska and take it down to Frito Lay in Jonesboro, Arkansas. One catch on this 700-mile trip: it can't deliver until Wednesday morning, two full days hence.

"Ah hell no," I snorted.

A while later my new dispatcher asked if I would be willing to at least pick up the load, take it to Kansas City then t-call it and he'd get me a good load from there. Now, I've only been here 18 months or so but the odds of getting a good load out of KC are pretty close to the birthers closing their case but being a good team player I agreed to the deal.

About 45 minutes later I'm at this spud processing plant out in the middle of nowhere with dump trucks filled with spuds straight from the fields coming in and unloading on a conveyor belt that leads into a large warehouse structure. There is a single dock with a movable conveyor belt arm thing poking out so when you dock it is about fifteen feet or so inside your trailer (think proctology exam). The conveyor is then turned on and twenty tons of fresh-from-the-field spuds are dumped inside on the floor.

My turn comes and I back the truck up (coughing, for some reason) and set the brakes. They have it set up with a scale under the truck while you're being loaded so they can put on as many pounds of spuds as they need to. I even shot some video but haven't had chance to process or upload it yet.

I'm loaded and have the paperwork so I head out. It has been a few hours by now so I message my dispatcher and ask for an update on the t-call and the new load out of KC. After a short delay he tells me that the t-call is no problem but they have squat coming out of KC so I'll kind of be stuck. The under-the-radar message is, of course, "Hey, why don't you take that neat-o load down to Jonesboro for us!"

"Ah hell no," I snorted.

I messaged back that I'd be up in Omaha in an hour and we can t-call it there. He responds that Omaha is out of route and they'll try to move the delivery appointment up. Later, he sends a message stating that they can't but I can try to sweet talk the broker.

I roll into our Omaha yard and t-call the load.

My truck needs some TLC anyhow, and I figure the odds of getting a decent load are about 53.8 times better from Omaha than Kansas City.

So, truck gets greased, oil change, new filters, patched a few holes in Rosie (don't ask) and I even had the tire shop rotate my super singles since the ones in the rear are wearing down faster than the ones up front.

A few hours after all that is taken care of on Tuesday morning the QualComm beeps and I'm heading to Aurora, Nebraska (about ten miles from Grand Island, where I was yesterday before I was sent on the Great Spud Adventure) to take a load of pet chow down to Phoenix. Only, it is noonish and the load won't be ready until 2100.

2100 rolls around and, indeed, the load is ready. Pick it up, adjust tandems, scale out, take care of paperwork and roll down the road. Just under three hours later I'm in Salina, Kansas and done for the night.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Another slow weekend

There may be a competition I am not yet aware of to determine exactly the fewest number of miles you can drive over the weekend. In my case, it was under 300.

Once I was unloaded in Kansas City the planners got to their thing and determined that my next trip would pick up Sunday morning on the east side of town (Missouri side) and deliver Sunday night at the Sam's Club 2200 in Grand Island, Nebraska. Bleh.

At least the load was ready early and I picked it up, then went to the nearby Blue Beacon to get scaled (the one in Kansas City has a CAT scale with a drive-up window, love it!). The load is nose heavy but I have some slide left so I put that in, but no go. Still 760 pounds over on the drives.

Head back over to the Sam's DC and they reworked the load. Turns out it was a newer forklift guy who didn't appreciate the difference between a regular van and the extra weight up front in a reefer. Scaled out again just a bit off so slid the tandems back a bit and finally scaled legal. Four scales for one load, ouch.

The trip up to Grand Island was windy but boring. I stopped at the Bosselman Pilot there to grab a shower then spent a few quality hours on the docks getting unloaded. A Walmart down the road served to fill up my fridge and pantry so at least I'm ahead on that score.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Danville, Arkansas

Ah yes, back to Danville, Arkansas, site of my post "Turn left at the dead coon, dodge the tree stumps and watch out for the tight turns". This time, picking up a brokered load at a large chicken processing outfit to take up to Kansas City, Kansas.

The shortest route from Texarkana to Danville is a very twisty two-lane road that I would prefer to avoid. I would have preferred to avoid the extra eighty miles of out-of-route but that was the choice.

Arriving right at noon I discovered that my trailer wasn't completely up to snuff for their inspection criteria and got directed to a neat little outdoor washout area. They provide a ladder, some brooms (and a rake, yikes) and a pressure washing hose with fairly anemic pressure. It turns out that washing the inside of a reefer isn't that bad and if it was a bit hotter, it may have turned out to be quite enjoyable!

Then the real wait began. Wait for a dock to open up. Wait for the trailer to be inspected. Wait a long time for the product to be loaded. Wait to be told to depart from the dock and button up the trailer. Wait for the paperwork. Wait for the seal. Wait for everything to be signed off on by the company Gestapo health inspectors. Wait for the little old guard lady at the gate to laboriously check everything over then walk to the back of my truck to inspect the seals instead of letting me pull forward. Wait, wait, wait.

Five hours after arrival I was on my way north to Kansas City. I fueled up in Peculiar, Missouri last night since the price of fuel is going up by nine cents this weekend across our fuel network. Spent the rest of the night there at the truck stop, then ran out the last 45 minutes or so after my split break ended this morning.

More wait, wait, wait at the consignee. Three hours to take off 20 or so pallets. Such is the life.