In Memorium

Today I had to do one of the hardest things ever in my life and have my cat Blaze put to sleep. We made it down to San Marcos, California to see her primary vet and after discussion and a lot of thought and tears I had to let her go.

View All Vicious Attack cat pics

Blaze was born in Vancouver, Washington in the fall of 1990. I met her in the spring of 1991 at the local SPCA shelter when I went to adopt a second cat to keep my first cat, Mala, company.

The shelter there kept animals for seven days before putting them down; I was introduced to Blaze on her seventh day and put down a deposit, then waited 24 hours to adopt. I brought her home and she met Mala for the first time. Mala was a people person: she loved to be held, brushed and even slept under the covers in bed most nights. Blaze had been abused by whoever had her before me. She was afraid of any unanticipated noise like a knock at the door or a toilet flushing. This is one of the few pictures I have of both my cats. It was taken in Mexico when I lived there in 2000-2001.

Blaze was exactly the opposite around other animals. She would chase poor Mala around at will and even attacked a poodle once when we lived in Georgia, when it made the mistake of crossing “her” yard.

Before I became a truck driver I moved around a lot and the cats came with me, naturally. Blaze had racked up something on the order of 20,000 miles with me out on the road before she came on to the truck earlier this year, and 60,000 miles or so since. As with the other moves, she took it all in stride.

About a year ago she had a growth removed from under her left eye. The tissue was tested and the results came back positive as a Mast Cell tumor. In dogs this form of cancer is very aggressive, whereas in cats it generally progresses slower.

After she recovered from the operation I flew her down to Mexico during the summer while I worked my last IT job remotely. Here she is trying to cope with the jet lag:

Then in the back yard keeping a lid on things:

Of course, she always kept an eye out for interlopers:

Blaze was spayed before I adopted her so she has no progeny. Unfortunately, feline and canine pet overpopulation requires the killing of approximately 16 million cats and dogs each year here in the US alone. Today, along with Blaze, roughly 40,000 other cats and dogs had to be put down. If you truly consider yourself a cat (or dog) fancier please adopt them from a shelter, have them spayed or neutered, and avoid subsidizing commercial puppy farms.

Buena Park, they said…

Here I thought the load was going to Buena Vista… now it turns out I’m going to be taking it all the way to Buena Park (Los Angeles suburb) myself for delivery tomorrow at noon. I’m stopped for the evening in Eloy, AZ where the mercury hovers at, I kid you not, 123 degrees.

When it rains… its slick

I made it to Laredo this afternoon around 2 PM. Was able to bypass the inspection bay entirely since I had no trailer to inspect! The weather from the Dallas area and south was very rainy in spots.

Blaze isn’t doing so well so we paid a visit to a vet in Memphis on Sunday morning. My vet in California had suggested that I be taught how to give Blaze subcutaneous fluids and Dr. Williams in Memphis was more than happy to oblige. He has 17 (!) cats of his own so he knows a thing or two about the species.

I left the animal hospital with a box of medications, two large bags of Lactated Ringer IV fluid plus various other things. Tonight I made the first try at giving her 150cc of fluid. About 100 left the bag and about a third of that sprayed everywhere as she made her getaway from the cold liquid. Will try to do better tomorrow.

In the morning I’m off to El Paso with a very heavy load that is heading out to Buena Vista, CA with another driver.

The bell tolls for… tolls!

On my run this morning from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area to Ohio I had to pay a whopping $65.05 in tolls! Yes, I’ll be reimbursed, but the amount of money our public servants get for us to use our own roads is simply outrageous.

The trailer I picked up at oh-dark-thirty this morning was interesting… one of our older ones, and its landing gear was balky. Even though my tractor was backed under it to take off some of the pressure it took a lot of elbow grease to work the gear up and into the ready-to-roll position. Score one for my genes and resulting 6’4″ frame.

I messaged ahead to let the driver picking up the relay know that I would arrive about 90 minutes early. He was ready to go when I rolled in and the switch happened quickly… he left me his empty trailer and got the loaded one to take out to the Port of Newark.

Blaze doesn’t think much of her new proscription. I have to fight her and pin her down (well, best two out of three at least; sometimes I have to tap out) to give her the liquid. She’s received five doses so far and has puked up four of them. The fifth may be bubbling up as I type…

After three or four hours of waiting my satellite unit went off with a curious sequence of dispatch messages. As best I could read it, I was told to take my empty trailer down to just south of Louisville, Kentucky to a Linens n Things distribution center and pick up a full one to take to Laredo. Yes, my very favoritist destination!

The dispatch looked weird and I wanted to ask for a couple more hours to arrive, seeing as I was just doing a drop and hook so I called my fleet manager. It turns out I’m not picking up a trailer! They are deadheading me there to drop my trailer then sending me bobtail (sans trailer) to Laredo! This is about 400 miles deadhead with my trailer and another 1,200 or so bobtail. All paid of course.

The reason for this is that there is an enormous number of full trailers waiting in Laredo for tractors to move them and they don’t need any more empties. This will make for some extremely high MPG figures for me this month: I wasn’t doing bad with real loads, either.

The downsides are the ride and the weather. Class 8 tractors are designed to haul trailers and the suspensions are set up for the extra weight on the drive tires. No trailer and the suspension is extremely “firm” with lots of bounce on some kinds of pavement. In rain, ice or snow a driver has to be extremely cautious about following distance and sudden application of brakes or steering. Which I will be, of course.

Out of Wisconsin to Ohio on a Conway load

After several hours of down time after I dropped my load this morning, the Mobile Max went off telling me to move south to Franklin, WI to take a Conway load to Ohio tomorrow morning at 4:30 AM. Since I like getting up around 4 AM this could be a very nice one-day run for me, though Chicago may be a problem even at that early hour.

I spoke with my Vet in California this morning and we hashed out a plan where I found a pharmacy and he phoned in an order for some anti-nausea medication for Blaze in liquid form. Apparently, it is the same exact stuff that humans use, just a smaller dose. She wasn’t all that impressed when I went to shoot it down her throat but with cats one never really knows.

Oregon to Wisconsin, via Iowa and Minnesota

The load of wood products I picked up in Oregon had three drops in the midwest. The day I picked up the load I ran out to a place called Hines, OR in the high desert part of the state and stopped at a truck stop there for the night. I had an excellent salad with fried chicken sliced on top — I will definitely stop there again if I’m through that area. The parking area was unpaved and very dusty, but it did have one of those port-o-lets out there where it was easy to get to. Always a plus.

Many people don’t realize that one of the largest arid desert areas in the US is in the rainy Pacific Northwest. Mountain ranges on one side of the state force most clouds to drop their moisture in the form of rain or snow on the west side, in order for the clouds to make it over the mountains. This makes for very little rainfall and a large area of desert to the east.

View all Oregon and Idaho High Desert pics

The following day I got started early and made my way east to Evanston, Wyoming, just over the border from Idaho. While I was in Idaho I stopped for fuel at Mountain Home, and noticed that there happened to be a super Wal-Mart on the other side of the highway with decent truck parking. After I fueled up I spent an hour getting groceries then headed back down the road.

Not every driver performs a thorough pre-trip every morning. Heck, some “drivers” jump up from their bunk to the driver’s seat, start her up and get running. This isn’t my way, and I’m glad… as when I got up in the morning my driver’s-side steer tire was flat. After conferring with our road service folks, they had me air it up at the Pilot I was at and carefully drive about 30 miles to a truck stop that had a repair shop.

The TA truck stop that I arrived at was backlogged at least six hours, so after I tested the tire again and saw the air pressure hadn’t gone back down, I went another 38 miles east to the next repair center and they saw me within about 30 minutes. The mechanics there dismounted the tire, looked it over carefully, used a water and detergent mixture to check for leaks but were unable to find any problem with it. Apparently, during the night someone had thought it was a fun idea to let the air out. That solved, I motored down the road to Ogallala, Nebraska and called it a night.

The load was originally scheduled to deliver on Monday the 18th but the deadline was pushed back a day for some reason. I stopped a few miles short at Des Moines, Iowa then the following morning I delivered the first of three drops on schedule. After you drop the first part of a multi-drop load you are dispatched with an arrival time for your second stop, which I saw was the following morning, even though the destination was only 250 miles away. I drove up there by lunch time to find a nearly deserted warehouse but the one guy on the dock didn’t have a problem taking his portion of my load a day early. It turned out to be a single pallet of stuff that the shipper couldn’t get on to the previous load.

I spent the rest of the afternoon moving towards my third and final drop, which I was scheduled to be at the morning of the 21st — two days hence and only about 350 miles! This basically gave me two options: deliver on the 20th, a day early, or wait around at some midway point and get in a 34 hour break to reset my Hours of Service clock. I was weighing the merits of each scenario when I saw a sign for a Petro ahead… with a Dairy Queen and a Subway attached, in addition to the Iron Skillet restaurant! Problem solved, choice made. I will force myself to stay in such circumstances for 34 hours for the sake of my logbook.

Big Storm in Wyoming

This is out of chronological sequence, but I saw this post over at the Heads Carolina / Tails California blog about a storm they were in and I happened to grab a few pics of the same storm and just brush the edge as I traipsed through on my way out to Iowa!

View all Big Storm in Wyoming pics

I was concerned for a while, thinking I would be driving through it but as it turned out it was to the north of me. The massive intake of air into the mass made for some interesting driving with 30-50 MPH gusts from my right side — thank goodness I have 77,000 lbs of truck and cargo to keep me down!

Back roads of Oregon

I dropped the load of beer this morning in Medford then headed a few miles down the road to White City, which has a lot of paper mills, lumber mills and the like. I will be taking a (probably very heavy) load of wood products back east to Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin to end up with. In order to get back to civilization, I have to take hundreds of miles of state highways out to I-84 then out to Salt Lake City then further east.

Sprint has little or no coverage out there so I expect to be offline for several days. Good thing I have a couple hundred hours of Tivo shows stored up!

Arrived in Medford, Oregon

After the later-than-planned start I made my way up I-5 and over the mountains in northern California and southern Oregon. Not a lot of fun in a vehicle that weighs almost 80,000 pounds. I phoned the consignee and they aren’t able to take it early so I’ll be there early tomorrow morning.

Got pre-planned again, this time with a very long load going from a city near Medford all the way to Iowa, then Minnesota, then Wisconsin. A total of approximately 2,500 miles which is a fantastic weekend run, but doesn’t bring me closer to Blaze’s vet. Doctor Martin called again today to check up on The Furred One and we discussed her diet and what an easy touch I am, giving her treatsies almost on command. By her command, I mean.

Got an early start… then foiled again

I left the truck stop around 5 AM local time and made an uneventful trip in to Fairfield, CA to the Busch plant. Dropped my trailer, got weighed, found the preloaded trailer I was to pick up and hooked to it. Unfortunately, during my pre-trip inspection I noticed that one of the tires was flat, with zero air pressure. None of the three or four tire locations in this area opens before 8 AM local so I get to wait for a few hours to get one of them out here to fix the flat. The load is maximum weight so I won’t even attempt to drag the trailer to them.

Using the heavy equipment now, hoo-ahh!

I arrived just early enough to not annoy the folks at the SBC warehouse — hard to see how anyone would do that with as laid back as they were. Anyway, I was the only truck there so I took a door and they pointed me at an electric pallet jack and went off to squander time however they normally do.

It took me a few minutes to remember the ins and outs of one of these beasts. This was a walk-along model (they had larger kinds you ride as well, but not for the random trucker that comes in to deliver). They showed me how they wanted them arranged on the dock and one by one the twenty-two pallets got extricated from the bowels of the trailer. Hot, sweaty bowels, I might add: it was around 100 degrees when I arrived.

Each pallet had a huge roll (perhaps three feet in diameter) of SBC billing forms or some such and weighed almost a ton. These are designed to feed into high speed automated printing systems.

After a total of about 40 minutes I was done and got the paperwork signed off. Before I had arrived I had a preplan for Medford, OR. I am to pick up a load of beer in Fairfield, CA about 45 miles away tomorrow morning and deliver it Friday morning. The crack addict that has me picking up at 0900 just off of I-80 on a weekday will be disappointed to learn I will be there at least three hours earlier to avoid the traffic.

Blaze has been very quiet and resting comfortably, as only cats can. She did throw up a small amount early this morning which prompted me to clean the carpets… again. I still have a lot of laundry to do with her vomit stains on them. That is my story and I’m sticking to it.

40,700 lbs of paper rolls for SBC

Got loaded this morning with my load a bit earlier than I had expected and made my way to California. The drive was boring until I neared the greater Los Angeles area where traffic and some very long, steep grades up I-215 woke me out of my stupor. I am very glad my engine cooling system is working properly… I passed numerous trucks along the side of the road whose drivers wished their systems were working as well, I bet.

I have about 400 miles to go tomorrow and I can’t arrive before 4 PM local time; union shop, don’t you know. They won’t touch the cargo while it is on my truck so I get to use a pallet jack to move it to the dock for them. Haven’t used one of those since 1993 when I delivered ice for a while.

Dangerous Towels

I was returning the towels to the proper bin in front off the Loves I spent last night at when the swinging door came down with great speed and smashed my left middle finger. I will be flipping people off with my right hand only for a while. Thank goodness for band-aids.

A glimmer of hope

Yesterday and today I had phone consultations with Blaze’s regular vets and there seems to be some difference of opinion on the meaning of her blood and urine workups. On a positive note, they have ruled out hyperthyroidism in her case: they had run a panel including that the last time we were by and everything there is fine.

Blaze hasn’t puked for almost two days now and her regular vet was understanding about the pill issue (the issue being that she is too smart to permit me to hide a pill in her cat treats any more).

I spoke with my fleet manager at CFI today and she knows I’m trying to swing through southern California to get Blaze poked and prodded. We’ll see how that turns out.

Hot, windy and dusty

That is the forecast for Arizona, I think. It was cloudy this morning early on but eventually the clouds went away and the temperatures moved up past 100 degrees. I got to the first delivery about 90 minutes early and it turns out they open on time, every time.

The paperwork indicated I had to help with the unload so I did — it wasn’t too much effort, as there were only 11 boxes and they weren’t individually heavy. The entire remaining part of the trailer was filled with many more boxes, sofas and other kinds of furniture which I would also get to help unload.

I drove up to Phoenix and made good time, only to have to wait for another couple hours while the warehouse folks tidied up. Eventually, lunch time was over and I got waved in. Nice big open dock and it took me four pull-ups to finally get it in place for some reason.

Eventually the trailer was empty and I collected the paperwork and shoved off. Within 15 minutes I got a dispatch to nearby Tempe to pick up tomorrow and run a load out to Sacramento, California for the day after. Lots of special notes on the load, and I get to unload the stuff with an electric pallet jack all by my lonesome, too.

Blaze seems to be back to normal. She hasn’t puked since just after we got back into the truck at the vets office. On the other hand, even though the pills she has to take every 8 hours are very tiny (very small pills quartered) I haven’t been able to sneak one by in the middle of a treatsie yet. Rebellious teens.

3 AM trip to the Vet

I awoke this morning to Blaze chundering once again, this time all over the sheet on the foot of the bed. I phoned her regular vet in California yesterday and he felt if it continued I should get her in to be seen by a vet. My wonderful Garmin GPS unit includes addresses and phone numbers of millions of locations, including vets so I called around until I found one open 24 hours and brought her there.

After a barrage of x-rays, blood and urine tests and an exam the vet on duty believes the problems she is having are related to an enlarged spleen. Hers is two or three times normal size and her red blood cell count is in the average range… meaning something other than red blood cells are partying down there. Since she already has a mast cell tumor under her left eye he believes either it has migrated to the spleen or it may be a separate lymphoma. The size of the spleen causes it to interact with the vessels connecting it to the stomach which are causing her to throw up. We were able to pretty definitively rule out a foreign object causing her problems.

She was given a shot of an anti-nausea drug, some sub-cutaneous Lactated Ringers to help with her hydration and a course of pills to take every eight hours to keep her stomach moving in the right direction.

Treatment options may include a spleenectomy (removal of the spleen) and chemo.

After several hours at the vet we returned to the truck. Blaze puked a celebratory thank you shortly thereafter and went back to bed.

Triple “T” In Tucson

Yes, there is actually a truck stop called the Triple T (Tucson Truck Terminal). In my case, the Triple T were the trio of throwups the cat spat out last night. I’m concerned enough I have a call in to the vet.

This load doesn’t deliver until Monday morning at 9 AM local so I have time enough to get a 34 hour break in. That period of time spent not working resets a driver’s 70 hour work clock which should hopefully allow me to run better later on this upcoming week.

I’ve made it very clear to Blaze that tossing her cookies is not acceptable in the truck. Like many 16 year olds, the fact that I said it doesn’t necessarily mean it has sunk in.

I’m a Lazy Boy

Those that know me know my lazy side, but actually I’m referring to the load I picked up at our Joplin yard this morning, from the local Lazy-Boy factory. It was the only one heading out west (alternatives including an oh-so-special run up to Ontario, Canada or New York), and it has two drops on Monday, in Tucson and Phoenix.

Unfortunately for the Forces of Laziness, a big red stamp on the dispatch envelope reads “Driver must tailgate load.” In other words, I get to push the boxes from the front end of the trailer where they are loaded to the back, where the furniture folks will take over.

I woke up at 5 AM and by 5:45 I was awake, hooked up, fueled, inspected and on the road. Some 620 miles later, I backed into a spot at a truck stop in Santa Rosa, NM.

The timing of this load will allow me to get in a 34 hour reset if I arrive in Tucson tomorrow. Santa Rosa is almost exactly half way and the trip today was no problem, so hopefully I will arrive in Tucson in the early afternoon.

After a few days without puking, Blaze came out swinging with three different blobs this morning. Alas, I noticed two until I carefully stepped into the third one. Socks really do experience their own little slice of hell out here on the road. I cleaned up the mess, threw out her bowl of Science Diet and opened a new bag, replaced her water and growled threateningly at her. None of this seemed to interest her, and her appetite remains good.