Not so fast…

I guess I wasn’t finished after all. About five minutes after I pulled into the local truck stop I get a message on my satellite unit to deadhead down to El Paso, TX. They wanted me there by 6 PM, but my 14 hour clock runs out at 3 PM so I’ll do the rest in the morning.

Finished early in Albuquerque

(Kind of rhymes, doesn’t it?)

Got up at 1 AM this morning in Denver and made my way down to Albuquerque without incident. Since I missed my original appointment time the workers at the Sam’s Club had to work me in around other trucks. Three hours later I’m done and after a quick hike to the nearby Walmart to restock, I drove over to the closest truck stop to await further orders.

Stuck in Denver

I made it up to the Pepsi plant in Denver ahead of schedule and after two-and-a-half hours they had me loaded, bill signed and seal on the trailer. It had been raining on and off for an hour or so and as I left it intensified quite a bit.

I drove just over a mile down the freeway to our fuel stop, a Pilot, and by the time I got there the sky was just dumping rain by the bucket. There was probably 3 or 4 inches of rain in 20 minutes on the ground, along with a heaping helping of hail. All this while I’m trying to fuel and get my load scaled. Suffice it to say I was soaked from head to foot.

The Pilot is next to I-70 and it flooded over badly, bringing traffic to a stop. Truckers reported standing water over a foot deep on the interstate, and there were some collisions as well.

Because I started my day at 10 AM today, I can’t work past midnight. Between the deadhead up here, the long load time, fueling, scaling and the storm I won’t be able to make Albuquerque before my 14 hour clock runs out and I will have to take a break. So, my 2 AM appointment goes by the wayside. Our crack team at HQ are on the case and will let me know.

View All Paging Noah in Denver pics

UPDATE: I will be staying put for the next ten hours then heading out very early to deliver in Albuquerque around 10 AM, weather allowing.

Odd sighting: I saw not one but two snow plows roll by on I-70. Its almost June.

Two U-turns to Albuquerque

I delivered at the second Home Depot late last night. For some reason this dock was a blind side back as well, but it was easier to get in to due to more room in front of the dock. The manager liked the fact that I was early (due to arriving early at my previous stop) so they could finish up and go home.

Afterwards I made my way about ten miles north to our authorized fuel stop in the area. After taking the offramp, I set up for a left turn only to find the underpass was a 13′ 9″ tall single lane! Just as I arrived another truck was entering the other side so I backed up and let him through. It was a bit nerve wracking making a wide enough turn to make sure the trailer didn’t scrape as I entered, but eventually I got through to the other side and found a spot to shut down.

This morning I got assigned a load of Pepsi products going from Denver to Albuquerque. I have to retrace my steps almost exactly from yesterday — the place I’m picking up is a few miles from the Home Depot I first delivered at. The satellite system warns me it will be a heavy load, which is unfortunate given I’m in Colorado and will be going to New Mexico. Lots of hill climbing today.

Home Depot in Glendale, CO

I decided to try arriving early and made my way about 20 miles from Aurora, CO in towards the southern part of Denver. I got here at about 5:15 PM and by 6:00 PM they told me I could have the middle dock.

The only problem is, the entire back area of this store is full of plants, empty racks, pallets, you name it. You have to enter from the rear of the store in a very narrow opening, then follow a small lane around the periphery, then do a very tight blind side back into the dock area, all while dodging the pallets and racks strewn about.

This is the alley at the back of the store:

View All Tight Back at the Home Depot pics

Here is the view from the other side:

This leads to the back area around a bend to the right:

To the dock area… unfortunately, you are forced to make a blind side back:

I’m glad I got here before nightfall… the warehouse guy complimented me on my backing, too.

Waiting is the hardest part…

Well apparently I will not be unloading early… and I forgot to mention these are both “driver assist” unloads, where I get my hands dirty helping them get the cargo off. “Fingerprinting” as it is called in the industry.

I’m parked at the Flying J in Aurora, CO which is the nicest truck stop in the greater Denver area BY FAR (at least as compared to the two T/A’s, the Pilot and the Sapp Bro’s on the north side). Very nice facilities, great parking, and I had a heckuva nice dinner last night at the restaurant.

Plus, there is a Walmart superstore across the freeway from here so I might drop by there tomorrow to get stocked up before I go deliver.

Early morning run to Kansas City, 525 miles

There was a super hot-hot load of rear view mirrors for Ford SUVs that CFI picked up in Laredo yesterday and just had to be in Kansas City, Missouri ASAP. Another solo driver brought it up to Lancaster and I was ordered to shoot it on up to KC. No problemo.

Woke up at 2:30, was out of the yard by 3:00 AM and arrived here at the consignee at 1:00 PM. I even took an hour nap down in Oklahoma when I was feeling a bit tired.

I saw the most perfect picture taking opportunity EVER on the way up here. It may last a few days and if I go back down that way I will take a lot of photos so I can get one that shows it off just right.

Got a call from Oz, who finished training at Crowder last month. He just got back in with his finisher and got his first truck, a very old one (330k+ miles on it) that is a month or two at most away from being traded in. It is in the shop to get some things fixed and the interior detailed, then he’s off next week for some real fun on his own. His buddy Gary, also from Crowder, apparently got a truck in Florida that was fairly well trashed, at least inside. I want to hear all the nitty-gritty details, man!

4th and final stop

McKinney, Texas is to the northeast of the DFW metroplex and you get here via US highway 75. It took me about 45 minutes from my third stop, and both my GPS and satellite directions were off. Thankfully, the mark 1 eyeball system I am equipped with (original, plus a spare) spotted the Michael’s sign from across the highway and I made my way the last mile or so on my own.

Then I was greeted by a nice, wide open dock with no concrete walls to blindly back around! Oh, the humanity.

Third stop, Rockwall, TX

This stop was easier to find, a bit difficult to maneuver behind the buildings, but the dock was easy. Narrow like the other docks but lots of room in front to maneuver. The workers were ready when I got here, with the sliding door open. Soon it will be off to McKinney, TX for the final drop.

You can still keep Texas. Thanks.

It gets better and better!

I went over the delivery documents this morning and discovered I have a fourth stop, in McKinney, TX. Then, I fueled up and drove over to my first stop in Cedar Hills only to find a tight back into a single dock.

The Michael’s people were pleasant enough to deal with and I got unloaded in about an hour. It was two pallets of shrink-wrapped stuff holding back hundreds of smaller boxes of other items on the floor. Apparently all four deliveries are like this.

After driving about 25 miles I found my second stop. I’m guessing they have you deliver in this sequence so the docks get progressively tougher. This one was a very special blind-side single dock with concrete walls close in on both sides. As you can see in the picture, there is the nice, open, welcoming dock on the left… which isn’t the one I need to get to. Instead, I need to get to the closed-in one on the right. They are due to unload me at 8 AM and I don’t have to be at my next stop until 11 AM so I will wait a while and miss some of the traffic before I go.

View All Vicious Attack Cat pics

Blaze is, as you can see, doing her best to help out in these stressful situations.

Weather is warm and humid and I somehow got bit by bugs twice in the short periods I was outside my truck opening the doors and such. You can keep Texas, thanks.

In Lancaster for tomorrow’s deliveries

I woke up at 3 AM this morning and got started early. The truck stop I was in last night had a rather large lot, not the largest I’ve been in but big. When I went to bed there was plenty of parking; early this morning there was none left. Kind of a secondhand type of truck stop as well: the parking lot had a lot of potholes, including several enormous ones in the way as you left the fuel island.

Made it to Lancaster by 11 AM. Took care of the laundry, went out and ate, then replenished the food on board. I have deliveries tomorrow morning at 5 AM, 8 AM and 11 AM, all within a 20 mile radius of Lancaster.

Coincidentally, my friend Bob got assigned a Michael’s relay load so he’s delivering up north at 6 AM, 8 AM and 10 AM. Good luck with that.

The lady at local dispatch here in Lancaster laughed at me when I asked if a local driver would care to take over the load. Welcome to my world.

Pecos, Texas

Started in Eloy this morning at 5 AM local time. Drove through the rest of Arizona, then the lower part of New Mexico, then about a third of Texas on my way to our Lancaster terminal tomorrow. I could have pushed on for another couple hours to Big Springs, TX but I saw a Flying J and decided to park it.

Boring day, all in all.

Herds of cows in Los Angeles?

Believe it or not, there are large herds of cows in the greater LA area. After dropping off my load this morning in Mira Loma I was sent about eight miles to Chino and passed several ranches with large numbers of cows and a certain, shall I say, dairy air.

The pickup is for the Michaels department store chain and is set to deliver in three locations in the greater Dallas area on Thursday. I can make it out there by Wednesday morning and I’m hoping I can talk my fleet manager into having me hand off the load to a local driver to spend HIS day on Thursday offloading at the three stores, instead of me wasting my day doing this.

Early morning traffic to Chino was a cinch. Slightly later traffic attempting to flee LA was a nightmare. Eventually made it to the welcoming lanes of I-10 in a drizzle that didn’t let up until the Palm Springs area.

Ended the day in Eloy, AZ at the Petro. I was going to stay at the Pilot but I’ve been there before and figured I would try something different. Like the Chipotle Bacon burger I had last night. Didn’t make much of an impression on me.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention, the place in Chino that I picked up the (loaded) trailer at had very, very tight spaces for them. I had to back under another trailer, put it into a different spot, then come back and grab the one I was after. First time I’ve had to do that.

On the road again…

After two days off I’m ready to rumble. Got up early this morning and phoned in to dispatch and they got me running: first, a deadhead down to Otay Mesa to pick up a trailer, then orders to run it 120 miles north up to LA to deliver first thing tomorrow morning. Not much in the way of miles, but they did promise another load that leaves here directly after that goes to Texas. They neglected to mention there will be three stops in Texas, but I consider that an oversight.

Drove up I-15 to Ontario, CA and parked at the same TA I’ve been at before. Fuel is a bit low so I might have to take on a smidge tomorrow at Palm Springs to get me across the border into Arizona for slightly less expensive fuel.

Had the cat in for a lube and oil change (blood and urine work). The vet’s office called me this morning to let me know everything looked good except for relatively low white blood cell count. Nothing I can do about it, and the recommendation is to get it checked again in a month to see if it is something temporary. Blaze is not entirely thrilled with this prospect.

Damned San Diego

I got up at 3 AM my time this morning so I could make a quick run to the Nogales Super Wal-Mart to resupply. It was quite busy, given that it was 1 AM local time. I guess a lot of folks work odd hours.

Then I found our drop lot in town and to say I was unimpressed would be an understatement. There was no gate and no guard so anyone with a semi could just waltz in a grab a trailer. I’m not sure why CFI (and presumably other companies) put up with this arrangement.

Anyway, found my trailer, dropped off my empty and hooked the new one. Found the license plate light was defective. Ran back by the local Pilot and found out how to change one, mostly by trial and error.

After 8.5 hours of driving I arrived in Vista, CA and got the load of windows unloaded. Then I got deadheaded back down to Otay Mesa to drop the trailer, then back up to San Marcos to take my time off. I will be back on Sunday so until then drive safe!

Oh, the reasons San Diego is damned? First, the traffic is horrendous! And yes, I lived here for a number of years in the 1990s. Second, the weather is… well, its about low to mid 70’s today, light cloud cover, birds chirping…

A scorcher in Arizona? Surprise, surprise…

Got off to an early start and ran from Palm Springs, CA to Eloy, AZ, about midway between Phoenix and Tucson. Waited an hour there to avoid the rush hour in Tucson then finished out the run to Nogales. Our freight forwarder there is a small operation with some very basic docks, but they got me unloaded in about two hours which wasn’t too bad.

The roads around Nogales are torn up with paving so to get back on to I-19 was a chore. I made it to the local truck stop (a Pilot with what has to be one of the largest parking lots of any Pilot I’ve ever seen — Mucho Grande), fueled up then shut down for the day.

Just 102 degrees out when I was being unloaded; 108 here at the Pilot.

A long day

Any day driving a big rig in California feels long, mostly because of the 55 MPH speed limit for trucks and also the enormous amount of traffic. Plus, when you leave one side of a large city (Los Angeles) and 50 miles later you still aren’t out the other side you know things are going to drag.

Made it up to my pickup about an hour early. Turns out each driver backs his empty trailer to a dock and picks up the (now full) trailer of the previous driver that he has left. My original trailer was a nice new one with the big super single tires; the new one is an older model with the dual tires. Runs true though which is a big plus.

On the way back down to LA I flipped a virtual coin and decided to turn left at Bakersfield and head out into the Mojave to eventually hook up with I-215 and I-15. Turns out this wasn’t the better choice, as there was a lot of construction, the Tehachapi mountains were harder to navigate than the Grapevine, and it was a bit longer.

Eventually I prevailed and drove out to Palm Springs where I was a few nights ago. I have to deliver this load in Nogales no later than 1 PM PST tomorrow, which is now about 450 miles away. Another early start should take care of that.

Drop and wait

Got up at 3 AM Pacific time (5 AM central — I slept in an hour) and made my way into the greater Los Angeles area for my drop in Rialto. Found the warehouse easily with my GPS but the warehouse guys had trouble figuring out which door I should unload through. First it was 139, then 128, then 130. There were only three of us drivers there and almost 200 open doors, don’t see why it mattered at all really.

One of the other drivers was a CFI veteran. He was going to a nearby truck stop to get a PM (preventative maintenance, like an oil change for a car) taken care of and I tagged along. Traffic was getting heavy by that time but we made the 10 miles or so with little delay.

Then I waited. And waited. Had breakfast. And waited. Had lunch. And waited. Finally, around 3 PM I got a dispatch to pick up in Parlier, CA tomorrow morning at 9 AM. I had to look it up, it is a town up near Fresno on CA-99. 255 miles from LA up there, then I plan on retracing my route to finish the day at this same truck stop, then deliver the following day in Nogales, AZ. The deadhead and dispatch combined is just over 1,000 more miles which will make this pay period the best yet for me as a solo driver, with something like 6,600 miles.