Alma, Arkansas: Spinach Capitol of the World

According to the sign I saw along the freeway, the small town I stopped at tonight is, indeed, the Spinach Capitol of the World. Since I frequently enjoy salads featuring spinach I thought it appropriate.

The remainder of the trip down from Omaha was uneventful, at least the driving part. My dispatcher was angst-ridden when I turned down a lovely 210-mile run back up to Kansas City and didn’t buy the explanation: my religion proscribes dumbass loads on my 40th birthday. Since tomorrow is that glorious date, I made the best of my beliefs and turned it down. Soon after popped out a new trip starting at about the same place and heading to McDonough, Georgia which is just south of Atlanta. Not a real charmer, either, but the timing is much better than the original trip.

My Garmin 660 GPS unit has been acting odd for the past few weeks and today, despite my best efforts, doesn’t seem to want to find any of those wonderful satellites in the sky. I know the route between Omaha and Russellville backwards and forwards but it was amazing how… naked I felt driving without my GPS. Unable to see at a glance what my ETA was. Unable to push a button and find out my distance. Unable to zoom in a bit and find the next rest area. I know there are truck drivers out there who don’t think much of GPS units but frankly, you’re wrong in the head people.

A quick virtual trip to Amazon turned up a slightly larger Garmin model, the 5000. I bought my 660 a few years ago for roughly $700 and this newer, larger model for under $500. Progress, my friends.

Until I get through the house to collect my packages and mail I’ll have to get along with Google maps on my laptop or my new iPhone. Yeah, picked one of those up last week, too.

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Four trailers

After I dropped off the Petsmart trailer in Ottawa, Illinois and grabbed an empty, I took my tractor over for a wash and spent the night at the conveniently-located Wal-Mart. Got some shopping done, did the snooze thing then headed out this morning to nearby Minooka, Illinois to pick up a load of Kellogg’s stuff heading to Colorado.

The unload for the trip kind of sucked, being Wednesday morning at 0200 at a freaking food warehouse but it turns out that didn’t matter as I was told to t-call the load when I got to Ottawa and was given a new load to run.

I started with one trailer in the morning, then swapped in Minooka, swapped again in Omaha, went across the river to Council Bluffs, Iowa and swapped again, ending with the fourth trailer on my truck that day. Yetch.

At least the load was only 32,000 pounds so pulling it over the hills in Arkansas won’t be a problem.

Safely taking a day off

I gave up my load when I reached Omaha, Nebraska and in the morning I sat through a safety meeting. It had to do with winter driving tips mostly. Nothing earth shattering.

My sleep patterns were still a bit jacked up from the overnight run I had to make a few days back, so I pushed out my PTA (projected time of availability) to Sunday morning. That will give me just enough time to squeeze in a 34-hour reset of my hours so hopefully I can get some good long runs in this next week.

The satellite unit went off before I hit the sack with a run out to the Petsmart DC in Ottawa, Illinois I’ve been to many times before. The trailer was already sitting in the yard which makes it a nice milk run.

“We don’t make that product here”

After the six-hour unload from hell, I was sent from Carroll, Iowa to nearby Denison, Iowa to pick up a load of meat headed to (hallelujah!) Southern California. Better than 1,600 paid miles — a great weekend run. I drove the thirty minutes or so in a happy place.

When I arrived at the meatpacking plant I got through the gate security and into the dispatching office. Turns out, the load of pork products that I was to get loaded with aren’t made at that plant any more. The plant that makes them? Why that is located back in Carroll, Iowa, where I started this morning at. Grrrr.

Denison is way out in the boonies and I don’t have cell coverage, so I had to use my satellite unit to contact HQ. Our people yacked with their people, I was sent back to Carroll and after a delay they finally got me the street address so I could find the (small) plant.

Unfortunately, the plant in Denison had looked up the order and that caused the shipping system to not want to let the Carroll plant look at it or fulfill it. More time wasted as they and their people killed the first order and put in a new one, an exact duplicate of the first one except for the plant I loaded at, into the system.

More hours go by as first I waited for another trailer to get loaded and pulled from a dock, then after I backed in and they put on the 30,000 pounds of ham and whatnot.

I’ve been trying to get back to Omaha to attend a safety meeting all month. My quarterly bonus (about $750) requires that this happen. If I had been loaded anywhere near my original appointment time, I could have made it to Omaha and went to the Friday meeting. Instead, it was too late so I had to T-call the load in the yard and wait until this morning to attend the last one of the quarter. This also meant I had to give up my run out to California.

Sigh.

Dog Chow and Oreos

I got hooked up with a load on the yard in Omaha heading out to the PetSmart distribution center in Ottawa, Illinois I’ve been to so many times before. Not quite a full day’s work, being 470 miles or so, but it will do.

Delivery was quick and easy and I parked at the nearby Super Wal-Mart to rest, take care of some shopping and await the next load.

Turns out, my next load was about twenty miles away in Morris, Illinois. A bunch of Nabisco products (Oreos, crackers, cheese, etc.) heading to a small town in Iowa. Now, I’ve berated the Nabisco folks before, as their shipping policies are, well, insane. Hours and hours of lost warehouse time searching for the two missing boxes of corn flakes with a wholesale value of a buck or less. Product that I had to store in the cab of my truck to be returned to our headquarters then later packaged up and sent back to them. It would have to be diamonds or bank notes to make it worthwhile to do this for the quantities I’m describing. But no, Oreos and corn flakes get the ritz treatment.

I hoped for a better outcome, I really did. Even though I got to tiny Carroll, Iowa ten hours early, parked across the street in a tiny truck stop, made it to my appointment time of 0300 early and was docked and ready to be unloaded by said time it still took the warehouse people SIX FREAKING HOURS to unload half a trailer of product… on pallets.

You remember The Grinch Who Stole Christmas? Remember the Grinch’s little dog that pulled that humongous sled? That freaking dog and a quadriplegic on a skateboard could have beat that time hands down.

Overnight Urinary Tract Infection

One of the things that I like least about trucking is the occasional load that requires you to change your sleep patterns. I normally get up around 0400 or so and run for the day, shutting down in the afternoon. The load I was buzzed with next picked up that evening about a hundred miles away and was due in Omaha the following morning at 0600. A night trip, in other words.

I don’t use caffeine or nicotine so altering my sleep to the other side of the clock like that is a problem. I could have turned the load down and waited for another but I flipped a mental coin and decided to give it a whirl.

The facility I was sent to is for a company called UTI, thus the title of the post. Seems we haul tires for them out to Nebraska for the LTL operation of a company called NTC. Yes, I know, too many acronyms.

I had to finagle my logs a bit to be down during the day then run the night trip. The trip itself was uneventful but tiring: I had to pull over several times for power naps when I began to feel woozie. My arrival in Omaha was on time and I took the rest of the day off to recover and reset my sleep patterns.

Some potential good news: the $4,000 tire bill is looking more like $1,500 when the return of the tires and rims my truck was originally equipped with factored in. I may have to adjust my target weekly income up a notch or two to compensate.

Back Early

I was planning on taking the entire weekend off but stuff changed and I came back a day early.

The weekend dispatcher had me grab an empty reefer in Kansas City, Kansas then run it up to Omaha to exchange for a full trailer headed out to northern Indiana. The timing of the load was very tight, as it delivered the following morning at 0800 (which turned out to be an hour earlier, since that part of Indiana is on Eastern Time) so I had to use all my available hours to get there.

Turns out it was a load of shredded carrots for Del Monte Foods.

The trip itself was ordinary, and the weight was light enough I didn’t have to do much foot driving in the hills of Iowa.