Back to Omaha

The long slog over the mountains of Utah and Colorado is at an end, as this afternoon I arrived at our Omaha, Nebraska terminal and T-called the load. I’m back on the board for tomorrow morning but it being Labor Day Sunday there might not be a lot of freight moving.

Coming over the Eisenhower pass just west of Denver brought one of the few disappointments with my truck to the fore: the jake brakes on this Volvo engine are woefully underpowered compared to trucks equipped with CAT or Cummins engines I’ve driven. I had to gear much further down to take downhill slopes in my truck instead of dropping just a gear or two and letting the jakes pick up the slack. The tradeoff seems to be that I do get excellent mileage, which is a bargain I can live with.

Swift Spy Pics

A few weeks ago, I took some pictures of an unusual Swift truck: a reefer! For those of you who don’t drive big rigs, Swift is the largest over-the-road trucking outfit in the US but they haul 90+ percent dry vans, intermodal rail and the like. As you can see, they do at least a little reefer work as well (album here):

I almost forgot the spy pic I took of a Swift car carrier a year ago:

Richfield, Utah

The tubes of the internet barely, barely stretch out here to Richfield so reception is spotty. Nothing much to report for today’s drive. Tomorrow will be fun going over the Eisenhower summit (at 11,110 feet it is the highest spot along the interstate system I think) and in to Denver.

Ridiculous and Coincidence

Today was all about those two things.

I departed Santa Nella, California very early and drove to San Luis Obispo, California mostly in the dark. By the time I arrived the sky was brightening and I got a good look at the building this shipper was using.

On the west side were a pair of docks that you could only get to with a blindside back and there wasn’t enough space to do that because of a locked gate. On the east side were three docks and an easy sight-side back with more than enough room. I chose the second set of docks then went inside to find the shipping people.

It turns out that they ship through the other docks, naturally.

(I realize, belatedly, that the picture doesn’t illustrate the point very well. Basically, I had to drive my tractor through the gate shown in the picture then carefully jackknife my trailer towards the blindside to hit the dock).

The shipper makes all things that you use for pet reptiles: enclosures, heating lamps, etc. Eleven tons of that kind of stuff made its way on to the back of my truck and I shoved off.

On the way from San Luis Obispo out towards the coast along HWY 101 there was a stretch of tight turns and my satellite radio was playing the Kenny Loggins hit “Danger Zone”. Coincidentally, a few minutes later I reached the coast and, for the first time, saw an actual flock of seagulls slowly floating in the breeze. Over the radio came “I Ran”, by Flock of Seagulls.

I figured if I could make a run into the Los Angeles area around noon to 1 PM, get loaded then get out of town at the forefront of the daily wave of traffic. Surprisingly, everything went my way and I reached the other shipper for this load around 1 PM and I was on my way thirty minutes later.

Barstow, California is where I ended up tonight. If I get up early (early in central time) I will try to run through Vegas before its morning rush. Otherwise, I’ll delay a bit and let that situation sort itself out before I get there.

Donner’s Pass

There are some mountain passes that most truck drivers treat carefully. One called Cabbage in Oregon along I-84 east of Portland. Monteagle or Lookout Mountain in Tennessee along I-24. The Grapevine along I-5 in California. And Donner’s Pass in California along I-80.

I have never been over that pass before, and if my luck holds I will avoid that sum’bitch for the rest of my life. Steep, curvy, terrible pavement and lots of road workers running around. Narrow lanes. Did I mention steep? I fueled just across the border in Nevada and I reset my fuel monitor when I did. By the time I hit Sacramento I was registering a bone-chilling 4.1 MPG. My jakes were acting up a bit, making a weird sound when they first engaged after being put under heavy strain for the better part of two hours.

This morning I finished the rest of the run in to the Safeway distribution center in Tracy, California and got unloaded. Food warehouse, lumpers, slow unload. The usual drill in such places.

I alerted my dispatcher that I only had about three hours to run for the rest of the day and it took a solid eight hours to work out my next load. I’m to head south then out to the coast to pick up in San Luis Obispo, California then run further south to the Los Angeles area for a few more pallets then take the whole thing out to Ottawa, Illinois.

One Long Road

After I got back on I-80 from Schuyler, Nebraska I’ve been on I-80 ever since. I kind of like it when my GPS says something like “Turn right on I-80 then continue 514 miles.” Comforting to know there aren’t many turns to miss.

Wyoming and Utah are very hilly so the MPG isn’t up to where I want it to be, but the truck is running fine. My APU is running fine as well, which is a good thing as it is over 100 degrees here in Salt Lake City, Utah this afternoon. Last night in Cheyenne, Wyoming was very nice with temps dipping down to the 50’s so I didn’t have to idle at all. Our fuel solution had me filling in Omaha, picking up the load, topping off again in North Platte, Nebraska in order to make it out near Reno, Nevada where I will fill just before I head into the Golden state. I debated doing it that way but instead I passed up the extra stop and am trying to get to Reno on one tank of fuel. If you don’t hear from me for a few days, then I will probably be stuck in Nevada somewhere cursing my sense of thrift; fair warning.

I’m not having to run hard because I left Omaha with only about 26 hours in my logbook until Tuesday morning. Basically, three 500ish mile days will get me close and the rest I will finish Tuesday for my 0400 appointment. Since this is west coast time, its really 0600 on my body’s clock so that works very well.

Go west and some monster numbers

It was still windy this morning when I left Minnesota, headed back over to North Dakota (visit #2!) then straight down I-29 to Omaha, Nebraska. The load of pork rinds in the trailer was the lightest load I’ve ever hauled: all 211 pounds spread across 63 boxes. Of course, the one time you really hanker for a heavy load is when it is windy out so that didn’t work my way.

Despite the light weight and slow speed I selected, I still only managed around 6.4 MPG according to the truck computer. With no winds it would have been something closer to 8.0 and I wouldn’t have stopped off in Sioux Falls, South Dakota to put on an extra 30 gallons of fuel. Our trip planning software is a bit screwy with the fueling instructions… it tried telling me it was better filling up in Sioux Falls at $3.94 a gallon instead of just getting enough to get back to the yard in Omaha where it was $3.80 a gallon. Naturally, I chose the solution of my own design.

I asked my dispatcher to remember that I gave up going to GATS this week/weekend to do these runs for him so if anything out to California fell out of the sky I would be all over it. Before I arrived in Omaha to drop off all 211 pounds of pork rinds, a preplan showed up. I’ll take a pre-loaded trailer from nearby Schuyler, Nebraska out to Tracy, California tomorrow morning.

When I checked my email I got more good news. Each Friday, owner/operators and lease-purchase operators get emailed the settlement that covers the previous week and is paid the following Tuesday. I mentioned in a post from a few days ago that there were some accounting issues with two loads I had run earlier and the accounting folks had added that pay (and FSC as well, nice catch) to this week’s settlement.

The dollar amount itself was large but that wasn’t really what grabbed my attention. Since I had paid for the fuel used to make those runs over the course of other settlements, my adjusted fuel cost (that is, my cost minus the FSC paid) was artificially high. Now that I’ve double checked everything it turns out that my adjusted fuel cost per mile to date is 10.45 cents. To say I’m thrilled is an understatement — this is a MONSTER number!

Over my first eleven weeks with my own truck I’ve purchased a total of $18,725 in fuel. The trips that I have run with that fuel have paid out an aggregate of $15,786 in FSC, leaving a difference of $2,939 I’ve paid for all my fuel. That is about $267 a week that covers an average of 2,557 miles, for right around ten-and-a-half cents per mile.

Heck, that even covers the two or three weeks I was without my APU and idling all night.

Anyway, once I have a full quarter (13 weeks) of settlements I will put everything together and let everyone at it.

Barrel O Fun

I blog tonight from the parking lot of the Barrel O Fun company in Perham, Minnesota. Nope, I’ve never heard of the place either.

The night dispatcher was very anxious that I put in a delivery arrival time of past the deadline for the load. Why, I don’t know since I gave the same estimate yesterday after I picked up and indicated with the loaded call that I wouldn’t be able to deliver on time.

I should have guessed today’s weather. I was coming from Wisconsin and headed to North Dakota, and the combination of those state abbreviations is WIND. I was fighting a strong quartering tailwind all morning and when I finished in Fargo to head east it became very strong blowing directly on my right side. Having an empty trailer that acts like a sail didn’t help any and the 70-minute drive back into Minnesota was an experience. Much worse and I would have parked it.

I had a cab driver cut across four lanes at a time just in front of me in St. Paul this morning. Regular drivers do stupid things all the time but most cabbies I’ve seen have been a bit smarter.

Bad Juju

I finished my run in to West Chicago, Illinois this morning without incident. There was a short pause after I punched in the load complete codes, then I was instructed to take the trailer in closer towards Chicago for a company called MME to use. Midwest Motor Express shares a building with Hill Bros. in Omaha and we pull freight for them regularly.

The trailer I picked up needed a washout, however. While I was getting directions for that little chore, my orders changed and now I was to run across to the north side of Chicago to pick up a load of Avon products heading to Fargo, North Dakota. Unfortunately, the load has to deliver by 10 AM tomorrow and given how far I’ve already driven today I don’t think I can make it there legally. After a bit of back-and-forth with HQ I’m told to do my best and I head out.

I’ll spare you the details of the traffic and streets. Suffice it to say plenty, and plenty tight. I had to take a couple curbs with my trailer tandems and several drivers were a bit concerned how close my big rig came to their personal vehicles. Welcome to big city driving.

I ended the day near Portage, Wisconsin. Tomorrow morning when I cross into North Dakota will mark the 49th US state I have visited, since I nabbed Alaska a few months ago. I’m patiently waiting on my dispatch out to Hawaii to complete my tour of all the states.

Weighty Issues

Question: A truck driver handles two loads in the same day. One load is 37,000 pounds, the other is 42,000 pounds. Which one is heavier?

If you were a logical thinker you might think that the 42,000 pound load was the heavier but you would be wrong in this case.

This morning I grabbed the paperwork and trailer from the ConAgra facility in Macon, Missouri. The load weight was right there, a tad over 37,000 pounds. No problemo, I hooked up and split.

About a hundred miles down the road I stopped at a truck stop in Cameron, Missouri I stayed at before and scaled my truck. I was at almost 79,000 lbs with my tanks less than a quarter full. Hmm.

The load itself was distributed very strangely. I was over on my trailer tandems by 2,600 pounds or so which wasn’t unexpected since I had the tandems slid all the way forward. I moved them back nine notches which at that weight would ordinarily give me a shift of about 3,500 pounds but it only moved about 2,000. Having more holes to go before the wheels were all the way at the rear of the trailer, I put in another four or five holes and the weight was distributed legally. Thirteen holes for about 2,700 pounds shift on a load that must have weighed 44,000 or so. Very odd.

Anyway, I motor over to Omaha, Nebraska to drop off the load and I’m allowed to drop the trailer there and bobtail back to the yard. Very nice.

While I’m there I had a chat with my temporary dispatcher and the head of operations and they helped me track down some outstanding payments for trips I had completed since leasing on. I also learned that the detention pay for the molassas-like warehouse folks in Fountain, Colorado had come in to the tune of $260. All told, this week should finish with a hefty paycheck even though I haven’t run that many miles for a change.

Back to the question I posed above. While I’m chatting with the operations folks my new orders come in and I’m heading out to Chicago for a delivery tomorrow afternoon. It is a load of meat weighing in at 42,000 lbs and change and I also filled my fuel tanks before I left, so I’m sweating how much my truck will weigh.

No problemo, as it turns out: I’m at just under 78,000.

I’m assuming the ConAgra folks don’t realize they sent tons (literally) of extra meat to their customer on that load. You’d be surprised how frequently shippers have no clue how much product they are sending out in a load.

The Dank Dungeon of Despair

I feared the destination for my load of chocolate was an underground storage location and I was right. What I did not know at the time was that this location is indeed the fabled Dank Dungeon of Despair.

I’ve been spelunking in my truck before (here and here) but those locations were light and airy compared to this dark, dank, depressing, debilitating destination.

There were fewer lights in the entire catacomb area compared to the other caves I’ve been in, and some areas curtained off right next to where I delivered that were very rough and undeveloped. The docks were difficult to back in to and arbitrarily marked.

I arrived to unload around 1030 and didn’t get sent down to The Pit until 1500. After an hour I was allowed to leave, which I did gratefully.

I have pics but tonight I’m in the small town of Macon, Missouri where internet access is at a premium so I will keep this brief.

UPDATE:

Here are the pictures (entire album here):

It started off okay, with a somewhat standard tunnel opening and well-lit entryway…

But as I slowly moved deeper inside the cave, the lights became fewer, and farther apart…

Once I parked in the dank dock area I got to stare at this until I was unloaded:

Taking a 34

A unique set of circumstances cropped up this weekend, allowing me to take a 34-hour break to reset my log book in Joplin, Missouri and visit with family and friends.

The chocolate factory was interesting. They have a large warehouse filled with boxes and boxes of frozen chocolate and I’m taking a load up to Independence, Missouri for long-term cold storage. I would have figured keeping chocolate at zero degrees F would change it somehow when it thaws, but according to them it is done all the time and you can do this with any good chocolate without problems.

I spent about $25 in the factory store getting goodies which goes a long way at one of those places. I brought over some of the proceeds to the party last night.

Of Wal-Mart and Cow Paths

I shut down last night a few miles north of Kansas City, MO at the last rest area before crossing into Kansas. I had a few hours I could have used to go further, but it was around 5 PM and who wants to fight the traffic for no good reason?

There was a lot of fog this morning but I drove safely and eventually it burned off.

Around 2 PM I arrived in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma and made another trucker “boo boo”. The DC I was heading for was a quick right off of the freeway and for some reason I took a left. Now, the smart thing would have been to immediately cross over the freeway, get on the northbound ramp and just go up a couple miles to the next exit and get turned around. But noooo, Mister Big Rig decided to do a little country driving just for kicks.

After about ten minutes I found myself on a dirt cow path with a tight corner that I thought I could get my trailer back around and thus to reverse course. This is out in the boonies, but one of the locals decided to come out and watch me run over a stop sign or something. It took a bit of effort, and there was a scare when I thought my right front tire was going to end up in the ditch next to the road, but I got it squared away and headed back over to the Wal-Mart.

Unfortunately, I was almost two hours early and they are strict about letting drivers in ahead of time so I had to park at a nearby lot for a while. Finally it was my turn and I went in, getting unloaded in about two hours or so.

After I punched in my unload code I get a plan sending me down to Texas to get a load of Russell Stover candy to bring up to Independence, Missouri for a Monday noon appointment. It is only 750 miles or so for the weekend which sucks, so I put in to see if I could drop it off at our Kansas City lot on Sunday and get something else to keep me moving.

Oh, and I think it is headed to the underground place I’ve been to before which is never a good thing in my book.

On the plus side, some friends in Joplin, Missouri are having a party tomorrow and I’m invited! Unless I get a serious case of the lazies I should be up there in the evening and we’ll see what that is all about.

Angst, my old friend

My dispatcher took yesterday off and someone else covered his trucks for the day. This morning, a message went out saying he’s no longer with the company and the fleet will be managed for a bit by Steve, who is the training dispatcher.

A preplan came over the satellite unit while I was nearing my destination in Council Bluffs with a load heading to Tupelo, Mississippi. Regular readers of this blog might remember my last trip down there heading into a weekend and the resulting issues. I immediately refused the load and went about my business, wrapping up the current one.

As soon as I punched in the codes on the satellite unit to show I was empty and ready for a load, the same load to Tupelo popped up as assigned to me, even though I not only did not agree to the preplan but I also refused it. This resulted in a round of messages back and forth quoting chapter and verse of business as usual to each other before it was agreed I wouldn’t touch that load and instead I would be put on another. I had hoped to take a 34-hour break to reset my log but that wasn’t in the cards.

Eventually a new load was presented, heading to Oklahoma from ConAgra in Council Bluffs and I took that. It delivers tomorrow afternoon but it is a live unload I think so when I’ll actually be done with it is speculation at this point.

I also learned today that when I agreed to a purchase price for my Volvo it apparently was not as configured when I got it, but instead as it was before I had the better super single tires and rims installed. At least I think that is what the verdict on that is, but I’m not sure. The accounting system used to track all of this may well be accurate but it is not the greatest at explaining what is charged for.

Speaking of accounting, in about a month I will present my first quarterly report showing the miles I’ve driven, my income and expenses as best I can determine them.

Gary, Indiana sucks

To be fair to the residents of that town, it is the Pilot located in their fair city blows chunks.

My fuel solution for this trip had me filling up there then again in Omaha at our terminal. The only thing is, I can get from there to our terminal with about 50 gallons of fuel so that is all that I put on during my stop… since fuel is cheaper at the terminal, why buy more than I need?

The suckitude of Pilot began when I exited I-80 and turned on to the small side street that leads to the truck entrance. There were a line of trucks backed all the way out the entrance almost to the exit where I got off at, waiting in line for fuel. The entrance itself is a one-lane-in and one-lane-out deal with a small concrete divider between and one idjit driver tried to skip ahead of the line of trucks (and me) and go in the out lane, only to be stopped and honked at by the line of drivers coming out that way.

Now I have terrible luck choosing lines. Any time I’m in a store, the checkout line I choose will be among the slowest without fail. Similarly, the line I choose at the fuel island is slow and the moron in front of me is yakking with another driver while he is at the pump and not pumping fuel! Remember, I went through all this rigmarole to get 50 gallons of fuel.

Finally, I make it to the pumps and get my fuel, while glancing ahead at the truck of the moron who was in front of me not pumping minutes earlier. Five minutes or so after I get my 50 gallons, he comes out of the building with his sandwich and drink in tow and heads off.

In other news, finding the shipper for this load in Walkerville, Michigan was fun. The building itself was very obvious but getting there through 20 miles of back roads was a gas.

I’m stopped for the night at the ever-popular Iowa 80 truck stop in Walcott, Iowa. Just as I was pulling in two trucks parked nose-to-tail pulled out creating a fabulous pull through opportunity right at the front door. Unfortunately, I misjudged the turn I had to make to squeeze between two other trucks and had to very gingerly back and fill a few times to squeeze through without scraping anything. Stuff happens.

Counting coup

Counting coup was an act of bravery some American Indian warriors practiced. It means coming close enough to an adversary to tap him with a coup stick or his hand then escaping reprisal. This is the frame of mind I was in this morning as I approached Detroit, Michigan.

I found my consignee easily enough but no one appeared to be staffing the office. After knocking for a while on the appropriate dock door, I went around front and knocked on the front door, which was also locked. After a short pause someone came out and took the paperwork from me and within 45 minutes the remaining cargo was off my truck and on their dock.

My next trip was already zapped to my satellite unit. I’m to head back to the western side of Michigan and pick up a load heading to the ConAgra plant in Council Bluffs, Iowa I am so sick of familiar with which delivers the following day. It isn’t as many miles as I would ordinarily run during that time frame but my available hours are low at the moment.

Minding the counting coup system, I beat a hasty retreat from the Detroit area and ended up about halfway to the shipper for tomorrow morning’s load. I don’t have to be there until 1000 or so which will be an easy drive.

Fingerprinting

So the load information came in this morning. I am to take a trailer that was brought in from the west out to Michigan with a total of five (!) stops. One in Omaha, one in Des Moines, three in Michigan itself. Each of the intermediate stops is only for a pallet or three to be taken off, with the bulk heading to a town near Detroit.

The Omaha drop goes okay, though the dock workers and I noticed the single pallet heading to Des Moines had tipped over. It was shrink-wrapped together with a bunch of different items and there was no way to restack it… or reason, for that matter. It could just as easily tip over again in the two hours I would need to get it do its destination.

My appointment time in Des Moines was noon and I arrived around that time, only to find that the workers have an hour-long lunch break between noon and 1 PM. Once they came back they opened up the dock doors and beheld the pallet they were destined to receive.

“No way we’re touching that. Don’t have the time, pal.”

So I got to spend 45 minutes of my day cutting away the plastic wrapping and restacking the pallet. During the process I found two cases of drinks that had split open, which didn’t help matters.

When a driver assists in loading or unloading a trailer the industry slang is “fingerprinting a load.” After some back and forth with my dispatcher afterwards, it was agreed that I would submit a lumper receipt for $20 to pay for the new back pain medication I have just today found a need for.

The drive out to Michigan was a long one but I couldn’t take a break before I arrived near Grand Rapids because my next appointment was 0200 the next morning. What dunderhead came up with that plan I don’t know, or the next appointment at 0700. Once those are taken care of I can haul my tired body over to Detroit and get the bulk of this stuff off of my truck and take a load off, so to speak.

PS Have you ever wondered why you pay so much at the grocery store? One reason is that I had to pay $40 to a lumper to take a single pallet with 22 boxes off of my truck this morning, or almost $2 a box. Its okay though, I get the money back. You, well you’re out the money pal. So sorry.

Clouds and virga

Virga is a meteorological phenomenon which simply means water droplets leaving a cloud but evaporating before they hit the ground. As you can see here, the tendrils of mist that seem to hang below the clouds are an example of virga:

Here is a closeup of the same formation:

This morning we had a fantastic sunrise here in Omaha, Nebraska as you can see:

You can view this entire photo album here.

The Longest Day, part two

I roll back over to the shipper and wouldn’t you know it, the paperwork was now ready. The trailer looks good and after signing various forms I’m allowed to leave. There is a fairly nice truck stop on the other side of this small town and I scaled the load easily. It was about 41,000 lbs of cargo, but the weight distribution was almost right on and this trailer is one that has a nice air-assisted sliding tandem system that makes that problem easily solved.

Due to the delay on the shipper’s part there is no way I can legally run the entire 900 miles by 0500 tomorrow morning. For the third time in as many loads something is jacked up with the time and I have to message in for the appointment to be set later in the day or for the load to be repowered. After a while I’m told to bring it to Omaha and someone will run it the rest of the way tonight so the consignee won’t be impacted by the problems with the shipper. Nice for them, not so nice for us.

It will be interesting to see what kind of detention pay I get for this. The load was supposed to be ready by 3 PM the previous day and I only got it 5 AM the next, or 14 hours of waiting on my part. Yo, dispatcher man! I sent in my codes already! Hook me up!

The Longest Day

My alarm went off at 0300, as planned and I did my pre-trip checks. Everything looked okay and sounded right so I made my way out of the Bosselman Pilot truck stop and on to I-80 heading towards Denver.

In a few minutes I realized my mistake. I had intended to give myself 4 hours for the 180-mile drive to my consignee but I didn’t realize that I had crossed over into Mountain time before I stopped last night so 0300 really was 0300, and I only had three hours to get to my Sam’s Club distribution center or there would be Hell To Pay.

Grudgingly, I bumped up my cruise control from 60 to 70 and left it there, scanning my GPS screen every few minutes to get the latest ETA information. Slowly, ever so slowly, the estimated time of arrival crept back to right at 0600. I had the bad luck of catching a few red lights on the way and the small cushion of two minutes I built up went away and I was sweating right at the end when I pulled in to the DC at 0559.

Then the fun started. Apparently, this load was supposed to be delivered the previous day and someone at our HQ had rescheduled it. But the guards didn’t have any such information and the delivery number I was given was for the original time the day before. I protested that I arrived (just before) the time I was given on my satellite unit but The Rules are The Rules and I would have to wait in a holding area and they would see if they could work me in. First the problems with the Dodge City load and now this. Grrr!

After several hours I got a call on my phone: a door was available. I drove around back of the huge warehouse and parked my trailer in the door, detached as instructed then brought my paperwork in to the receiving office. Along the way I passed what looked like a 60 year-old hippie type with a huge beard outside smoking a cigarette. Figuring he was another driver I didn’t give him a second glance and went inside. There wasn’t anyone there so I waited a while and eventually the hippie guy comes in, scans his badge across the door next to me, goes inside and takes my paperwork. Power to the people, dude!

They weren’t too slow unloading my truck and after another hour or so I was on my way to get the trailer washed out then to head to nearby Greeley, Colorado for my next load.

I arrived around noon and dropped my clean, empty trailer with them and learned my load wasn’t ready yet. No big surprise, as it was listed as being ready around 3 PM. The gate guard took down my appointment number and my cell phone number and said I would get a call when it was ready, but I couldn’t stay on their property. There was a small convenience store about a half mile away I passed on the way in with space enough for bobtail parking so I went back there and chilled.

No call came in so at about 5 PM I motored back over to the shipper and nope, load not ready yet. I did get the number to call for their operations people and the gentleman I spoke to said the problem wasn’t the product it was their computer system which apparently took a dump. No computer = no paperwork = no load. He took down my cell phone number and said I would be called when everything was straightened out. Back to the convenience store.

By 9 PM there was still no call and I called it a night. I left my cell phone next to me so I would be sure to wake when they called, then started snoozing. Next thing I know, it is 5 AM and there has been no call. Sigh.

2008 Alaska Cruise Day 4 – Glacier Bay

I could riff on and on about the sights but pictures speak for themselves:

Lots of still, reflective water to be seen and enjoyed.

One of the glaciers is calving… I have great video and a whole series of pictures that you can click through to watch.

There were thousands of these birds up there and they enjoyed dive bombing the ship while searching for food.

If you look closely (click the image to enlarge) you’ll see someone in a sea kayak managed to make his way to the very tip of glacier bay. Note especially the scale of his kayak and the background… insignificant!

View the entire album here.

Long, Long driving days

Yesterday was a full day of driving. Today was a full day of driving. Tomorrow will be a full day of driving. Get the picture?

I drove from Walcott, Iowa to Big Springs, Nebraska stopping only at our terminal in Omaha, Nebraska to refuel. The fuel is down to $3.88 with a 55 cent FSC it is really, really nice to run at the moment. At 7.0 MPG fuel would cost me 3 cents a gallon, and I think with the MPG I’m currently getting I’m actually making money on fuel at the moment. In a week or two the FSC will come down and a new equilibrium will be established but for now its damn nice.

Speaking of damn nice, I got my latest settlement email showing a whopping 3,8l8 miles run last week with a paycheck of over $3,000. There was an odd truck repair bill in there as well for $409, which would make it a $3,500ish paycheck after all expenses. This is definitely out of the norm and by far the best week I’ve had here, but by the same token damn nice!

Getting the heck outta Dodge

I was out of time last night, and also completely exhausted, so I didn’t scale this new load until this morning. The paperwork said the gross weight was 43,800 lbs of cargo which would leave me some breathing room even with full tanks. Imagine my (lack of) surprise when I scaled with my tanks 1/3 full at 79,800 lbs. I was going to be a few hours behind on the load already and I was, technically, under gross weight so I doubted the 3-5 hour wait for them to rework the load — assuming they would — would be a viable alternative.

It took three tries to get the weight distributed as close to legal as possible. Since the trailer tandems slide on a series of holes, at that weight each hole was about a 450 pound weight transfer so if you end up a hundred heavy your alternative is to go 350 light on the rear then 450 more pounds up front, which would have put me off there.

Fortunately, my nice truck MPG worked in my favor and I drove more than 500 miles before I added 50 gallons to get me to Walcott, Iowa to where another driver was waiting to swap loads. His load picked up in Illinois headed to Colorado and mine was going to Chicago, so he backtracked and I’m kind of backtracking now.

Three live unloads, two trailer swaps, one giant P.I.T.A.

PITA being short for Pain In The Ass, for the uninitiated.

My first live unload happened on schedule, though one of the pallets in back had fallen over the load lock and various goods were strewn about in the back of the trailer. After it was cleaned up and that part of the load was taken off, I made like a tree and split to my second and final PetSmart drop in Arvada, Colorado. The docks were set close to a blind corner on the wrong side of the building from which I came in on so I had to go back around, make a u-turn in the parking lot then go back around to try to dock it. This was my second live unload.

Hours later, the Powers That Be chimed in with one load that I wouldn’t have the hours to run, then a different one with a separate local dropoff first. I thought the plan sounded like a bad bet to begin with but I signed off on it and got directions.

This brought me to Commerce City, Colorado to exchange my (now empty) van trailer for a loaded reefer to take south to Fountain, Colorado to be unloaded. After some fun dodging trains and other traffic, I eventually made my way back to the interstate and south to my third live unload.

This was, of course, the Unload From Hell. I mean, it was 14 freaking pallets and it took over four hours! I could have dropkicked all that off the tailgate myself in that amount of time. Finally, the paperwork was ready and it was determined that Kelloggs shorted whoever three boxes of goods. The pain and the misery inflicted on everyone involved over five bucks worth of corn flakes. Sigh.

By then it was mid afternoon and I had to drive 300 miles along state highways to get to Dodge City, Kansas where I dropped off my empty reefer and picked up a full one headed to Chicago. Of course, I was told when I agreed to take the load that it delivered on Friday morning at 0900, but the actual bills say 0600. Plus, the snafu at the last place has put me hours behind so I’ll have to see if we can work something out tomorrow as I make my way towards the windy city.