Dinner at Outback

I drove over to the nearest Outback Steakhouse for dinner and noticed a Conway truck parked in back, so I parked next to them. When I walked up to the building just before opening, I met Larry and Nancy who drive team for Conway and we had a pleasant dinner together.

Many of the things particular to CFI haven’t been explained well to our new Conway folks… for instance, getting home for Christmas, the Christmas bonus, firing a fleet manager, who to talk to if you are having problems with someone, etc. Also, the way our satellite communications works (with many individual messages) is quite alien to their experience and somewhat exasperating.

They haven’t heard of CFIDrivers.com so I pointed them in that direction to get more information about the company than I could provide. They have a cat that looks a lot like my cat Mala:

Mala was the most people-friendly cat I’ve ever known… slept under the covers with me almost every night and loved to be around people. She died in 2000 and I miss her still.

UPDATE: I also met up with my finisher, Rich, while I was here at the terminal earlier. He’s been getting great miles and it sounds like he is going to be teaming with a friend soon for some coast-to-coast dedicated runs. Lucky bum! Apparently I was his last student, so it is true I broke that mold 🙂

Off to Joplin

I am commanded to turn south and take a load from our Lancaster, Texas terminal up to Joplin for my home time. Due to the delay between getting unloaded and being dispatched I would have just enough time to rush to Joplin before my 14 hour clock expired, assuming no delays.

However, the load has been here for a while and doesn’t need to deliver until Monday, November 5th, up in Ohio so local dispatch will let me run it tomorrow. This has the salutary effect of giving me time to do laundry, take a nice long shower, go grab a steak and relax then head out first thing in the morning. Oh, it also means my home time won’t “officially” start until Friday which saves me a day… not like I need an extra one though.

This time I will take the “official” CFI back route along highways 69 and 75, just for kicks, like this:

Made in China

This morning over 1,300 packages were offloaded between the two stops I made. I watched most of the second unload and out of the 770 or so they got, less than 10% didn’t have “Made in China” stamped on the box. This isn’t unique to Linens & Things: it was the same when I did those Michael’s stores a few months ago.

I’m not a huge rah-rah “buy American or else” type guy but it is a bit unsettling to see the gigantic flows of products from outside our borders, through local stores then into homes across our nation.

Anyway, I’m empty now and waiting for my next dispatch. I couldn’t stand running my truck all last night so I took a chance and went five hours off, then started around 0100 for an hour, then left it off until my first unload. I can’t wait until they fix my battery issue and, eventually, I get an APU on the truck that I drive.

The path less taken (because it isn’t a truck route)

Consider, gentle reader, the following two paths from the same start and end points:

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&time=&date=&ttype=&q=2201+Preston+Rd,+Plano,+TX+75093+to+3333+preston+rd,+frisco,+tx&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=52.505328,80.859375&ie=UTF8&om=1&s=AARTsJpVvzbb5rGO3QHGBzdTQdAsguin7w&ll=33.06828,-96.800055&spn=0.100699,0.145912&z=12&output=embed”>
View Larger Map

And:

The first map shows the simple drive up a designated state route (highway 289) between my first and second stops. No toll roads, no deviations, no problem.

The second map, which we will call the “legal route” involves the north Dallas toll road, a couple deviations from the most efficient path and lots more traffic.

Plano, Texas is quite possibly douchebag central

So I have to make a tight left turn from a busy street on to a side street running behind my consignee and there is a lone male in one of the many sports cars in the area waiting to cross the street from my left. Because of the tightness of my turn, he is forced to adjust his schedule by at least 15 but no more than 20 seconds and back up about a car’s length so I don’t run him over, as I wait patiently in said busy intersection.

He manages to accomplish this driving feat on the second try and as I’m carefully watching my trailer swing to ensure his car, and life, remain intact he rolls down his window and gives me the universal signal that I am #1 to him. If I was half my age and one-third my IQ I would have set my brakes and kicked him up a notch.

Then, I make it into the parking lot behind my designated Linens and Things store and here is another punk in a grey mustang (not the classic, the lame new one they came up with) who is unhappy my backing maneuver is costing him precious seconds. He revs up his obviously-unmuffled beater engine over and over to show me who’s boss. With that many distractions so quickly, he’s lucky I didn’t inadvertently slip into the wrong gear and put a ding in his hood.

Anyway, I made it, I’m backed to their dock and the store manager tells me it is no problem for me to spend the night where I am. Better, this strip mall place I’m at has a couple restaurants so I may just have a real, honest-to-goodness sit down meal tonight. Yum.

Good dispatch

The folks offloading the huge (4,000 lbs each) rolls of paper were very efficient and I was heading out about 30 minutes after I touched the dock. I went back to the interstate then north one exit to a T/A truck stop I knew was there, only to find they have a Popeye’s chicken there and it was open! I got some early morning fried chicken… for some reason I’ve been craving Popeye’s chicken recently.

Anyway, after an hour or so the word came down that I was to head southwest to Shepherdsville and pick up a two-drop load for the Linens & Things chain. I had dropped an empty at that particular DC before so I knew where it was. My new trailer was preloaded, which is great, and also in the middle of a large puddle of water, which isn’t so great. I managed to hook up to it and get some air to release its brakes then carefully drag it with the gear still down to solid land. It is the little things that really make driving an adventure, I say.

So I spent the rest of my driving day cruising over to our terminal in West Memphis, Arkansas where I am calling it a night. The load can’t deliver until Wednesday morning at 0600 at the first stop, so I have an easy 450 miles tomorrow to get into position. Between the deadhead and today’s trip miles, it will be a 1,000 mile trip done in about two days which isn’t bad at all.

Small pilot

Last night I shut down at the smallest Pilot with parking that I’ve yet seen… it had about a dozen straight parking spots in the back and that was it. Luckily, I was there early and had my pick.

Overnight I tried nursing my batteries by shutting off the truck for three hours then running it for one, then shutting down for another three. It was easily cool enough to shut down (I awoke to 38 degrees outside) but with the problems I’ve been having with starting my truck I didn’t want to take chances.

It turns out, waking up every few hours for an hour then trying to get back to sleep doesn’t give me a good night’s sleep, so the truck will be running until I get back to Joplin later this week. Yes, I’m highlighted for the first time in over a month.

I’m at the consignee for this load, haven been given the easiest dock they have to back in to… they have 12 docks side-by-side and a lonely 13th dock off to the side, perpendicular to the rest, where I’m parked at with an easy straight back. Yay for me, for a change. High speed internet here too… yum.

Turns out the load consists of ten huge rolls of paper product for boxes and such; each is roughly ten feet tall and six feet wide, stacked on their sides.

Nice sunday drive to the Big Bone Lick park

I kid you not, I’m parked near Kentucky’s famous “Big Bone Lick” park, a few miles away from my drop tomorrow morning:

The drive up today was gorgeous, with fall definitely in the air and the leaves turning all manner of colors other than dark green along the way. I covered the 595 remaining miles in 9.25 driving hours starting around 0530 local (east coast) time.

Time for a nice Sunday drive

Tomorrow I will have a nice Sunday drive through the southeast, from where I parked tonight in Cordele, Georgia, up to the consignee in Florence, Kentucky. I was supposed to pick up my drop and hook load in Palatka, Florida at 1600 hours but I arrived seven hours before that and wouldn’t you know it, the trailer was already there and good to go. I got a lot of mud on my shoes while doing all my checks, sliding the tandems and the like.

Anyway, this is the trip up to my consignee for Monday morning:

Pimps and Hos

I try to avoid posting when I’m good and steamed, and yesterday was a good example of this principle in action.

My truck wouldn’t start (again) after less than seven hours off so I got my early-morning service call and jump start. A quick trip to the fuel island filled the tanks, followed by a short trip across the greater Birmingham area to the Conway terminal where I dropped my empty.

After about 90 minutes waiting, my trailer was ready and I got the paperwork. Turns out it was another of those skirt-side Conway trailers with the electric landing gear. Slow as molasses getting those things raised up.

I motored over to Atlanta where the traffic was moving just fine at 9 AM on a Friday! I had a couple slowdowns but that was it, and soon enough I was shooting out the south side on I-75 with a clear path down to Orlando, where I arrived about six hours later. I get the paperwork signed off on and time stamped and a door assigned, and soon enough the trailer is off my truck and I head over to the sandy empty trailer lot and hook up to one of our empties and park it for my 10 hour break.

Not.

A short while after I’m parked a guy driving around one of the yard dogs comes over and beeps at me and I give him the scare of his young life, appearing from the back dressed only in my tidy whities. When he has his breath back, he informs me that our corporate masters (hereinafter referred to as “Pimps”) have decreed that OTR drivers can’t park on any of OUR property here in lovely Orlando. So I (hereinafter referred to as a “Ho”) get to take my unwanted self outside the fence and park along the street.

This is complete bunk. They have plenty of room in the back lot where, I might add, they park a dozen or more of their local bobtails. I could see possibly not allowing OTR drivers from other companies the right to park on the Pimp’s property, but we are the same freaking company! Conway owns CFI now!

I briefly considered telling Conway to shove off and if they cared so much about it they could get a wrecker in to tow me off of their our lot, but in the end I moved.

Pimps and hos.

Back and forth…

This morning I delivered at my consignee a few minutes late when my truck decided it wouldn’t start (again, for those reading back a week or two). Thank goodness it was where I parked and not at the consignee or there would have been a hemorrhage or two when I couldn’t move.

After a few hours of waiting I was dispatched to our Atlanta yard with my now empty trailer to drop it then bobtail back to Birmingham to pick up a trailer that was just repaired at the local Great Dane shop.

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&hl=en&geocode=&time=&date=&ttype=&saddr=Vance,+al&daddr=atlanta,+ga+to:birmingham,+al&mra=pi&mrcr=1&sll=33.475265,-85.82&sspn=3.491084,5.053711&ie=UTF8&om=1&s=AARTsJpQ2KFXYEdFTLzUNfX2PeOCk-a4xg&ll=33.475265,-85.82&spn=3.207076,4.669189&z=7&output=embed”>
View Larger Map

Then, my satellite unit started beeping and buzzing and making all kinds of interesting sounds and I thought my eyes must be deceiving me:

I received a string of pre-plans. Plural!

I couldn’t believe it. The next four days are laid out thusly:

Friday: Run a Conway load from the Birmingham area down to Orlando and drop it off (drop and hook on both ends… yah!)

Saturday and Sunday: Grab a load about 90 miles from Orlando and run it up to Kentucky.

Monday: deliver first thing in the morning.

It isn’t the most miles I could have hoped for, but given my relative lack of hours it is more than I was expecting, by a wide margin. It includes an all-too-rare Saturday load, and even the Conway run is a good one for me: starts early in the morning (0530) and is almost 600 miles for the day.

The only real negative is that I’ll have to brave the Atlanta morning rush hour traffic:

Tonight I’m parked at the Birmingham Pilot truck stop, quite possibly the bottom of the rung of Pilot truck stops. The parking is awful, the fuel island impassable, the entrance and exits backed up… the list goes on. The parking is tight enough I almost scraped a mirror tonight; rare for me that I’m ever that close.

665 miles behind me

I stopped this afternoon in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a short ways from my delivery tomorrow. I was rolling at 0345 on the west side of Houston and made it all the way here, pausing for a fuel stop in Louisiana.

Got accosted by the local truck stop ministry preacher as I parked my truck. I was polite.

Weather was very windy and rainy yesterday, and my MPG sucked. Today there was quite a bit of light rain and not much in the way of wind, thankfully.

Some people wrote in asking why I was squawking over a nearly 1,000 mile run. I like the load just fine, it is the timing vis a vis the hours of service that is lousy.

Shafted, probably

Well, I got called up to the dispatch window around noon to take my pick of the loads available. Which consisted if a small number of in-state (Texas) loads and a solitary longer one to Vance, Alabama where I have delivered before.

The thing is, none of the loads had a long enough lead time for me to finish my 34 hour break so in effect I will be poor on hours at the end of this week which should pretty well screw up this weekend.

I drove the load up to the west side of Houston and will do most of the rest of the run tomorrow, starting early-early as normal to get through the area before traffic gets nasty.

The dispatcher did offer that there was a good chance that I would get a load back to Laredo from the same plant. To which I replied: “Oh goody, so I can get more wonderful loads like this out of here?”

Playing in the sand

Last week, the consignee in Tampa had a fairly difficult back for me and my rig. A semi driver knows when you see the ground chewed up like this that an exciting time is coming up soon:

View all Playing in the sand pics

It is even more of a blast when the people who design the building and the people who install the power poles get together, work hand-in-hand as it were, to make my life difficult:

Houston a pussycat, the rest of I-10 a tiger!

I got up at my usual early hour to find Houston deserted (thank goodness), with only the very end of a freeway closure westbound on I-10 to worry about on the way through.

An hour or so later my truck was being buffeted by high winds and rain blown so hard from the north that it was almost horizontal. This continued in spurts all the rest of the way to San Antonio then for a short while south of there before the cloud pattern changed (and I finally broke through the frontal barrier that was causing the squalls).

Traffic in Laredo was much worse, and a very high percentage of it semis. It took almost fifteen minutes to make it through one stop light to a turn I had to make. I eventually got to my consignee, got the paperwork signed off and dropped the trailer for them to pick over.

I wasn’t planning on getting on the board immediately when I returned but the too-helpful local dispatcher did it for me. No matter: I’m 67th on the list.

610 miles down

Some days, like today, this job is a breeze. I left Pompano Beach this morning at 0400 and drove 610 miles to Pensacola, Florida with a fuel stop in Ocala and a stop for supplies in Marianna.

By 1330 I was done driving for the day with only 9.25 driving hours used. I could have gone a bit further, but there is a lot of construction going on in Pensacola and Mobile, Alabama isn’t terribly pleasant with afternoon traffic. Both will be pussycats tomorrow morning before dawn.

Unloaded, loaded, lazy

I made it to the greater Miami area last night and dropped off my trailer around 0300 then called it a night. After my ten hour break I drove about 8 miles over to the shipper for this load going to Laredo and dropped off the new trailer I picked up at the Fedex facility I went to last night. Then, I got my new, loaded, trailer and headed out of town a short distance to Pompano Beach, Florida where I’m shut down for the night.

The load is due in Laredo at 1222 hours CDT on Monday so I’m going to knock out most of the 1,550 miles over the weekend then cruise in the rest of the way Monday morning.

Feeling kind of lazy and relaxed. Have some more pictures, just too lazy to upload them!

Hither and Yon

My fitful sleep was just interrupted with a change in plans… I’m still taking the overnight run to Hialeah, but now I pick up a load in Miami at 1700 tomorrow and run it to Laredo. It is about 300 more miles, but since I won’t pick up until late in the day I may have to run it overnight three nights to Laredo.

The new route:

Proof postitive CFI Dispatch has a sense of humor

I offer into evidence, exhibit #1:

Tonight before 2200 hours I need to drive about an hour west over towards Ocala to meet up with another truck and relay their load down to Hialeah, Florida, which is near Miami. It has to be there by tomorrow morning at 0400 which is okay, since I need to be in Clewiston, Florida (about 90 miles away) by 0800 to pick up a load going to New Jersey for delivery on Monday.

If the map looks jacked up, that is because… it is.

That is all.

Driver Assist

Driver assist is the term used when we help unload a trailer. You may remember from here and here the last time I helped on three unloads but was denied payment for my work because I didn’t use the proper procedure. You can bet I documented it very well this time.

This load of office furniture is at the same stop as the very first driver unload I did for CFI. In the almost eleven months I’ve been driving, I’ve done a total of five driver assist unloads. None of them were a problem for me, or would be for anyone in decent shape.

In this case, the assist came in the form of moving boxes around in the back of the trailer so the forklift operator could grab them between the pincers on his equipment and drag them out.

After my morning workout I hit the road and departed Tampa towards Orlando. On the way I pulled over at a truck stop to wait for the traffic to die down in front of me, as I’m not due to arrive at the final consignee until 1300 local time.