The Butterball Turkey hotline

Years ago on the series West Wing there was an episode which involved the Butterball Turkey hotline. I’ve never called it (I assume it exists), but at just after midnight this morning my cell phone went off with a call from our night dispatch.

“But I’m on time off!” I protested.

Apparently, the Butterball plant in Carthage, Missouri was shutting down for the weekend but they were willing to stay a bit late if I could bring them an empty trailer for a load planned out on Sunday. My plan was to come back on Sunday but I wasn’t about to get up out of bed, drive to my truck, drive my truck an hour down the road, drop off my empty, then bobtail back an hour then drive back to the house because someone at HQ messed things up.

Later in the morning, at a decent hour, I phoned in and spoke with my dispatcher. Mixup, blah blah blah, thought you were coming back today, blah blah blah. Okay, now what?

It turns out we are very short handed (trucked?) in Omaha this weekend so my orders were to deadhead all the way back up there and let dispatch know when I would be available.

Option 1: Stick to my original schedule, leaving early on Sunday morning and arriving in Omaha around noon with about four hours to drive for the rest of the day.

Option 2: Leave mid-afternoon on Saturday, arriving in Omaha that night then having eleven full hours to drive for all of Sunday.

I went back and forth for a while but finally the money side of my brain won out and I got packed up and moved back into the truck. About seven hours later after driving through snow and ice (not the funnest thing when you are hauling an empty trailer) I arrived safely in Omaha, Nebraska and shut down for the night.

Start me up

I made the drop in Lincoln first thing in the morning then headed to Omaha to put my truck in the shop over at the Volvo dealer. My clutch has been steadily worsening in the past few weeks and they put it back to original spec.

The mechanic also managed to leave his remote starter attached to my starter so at some point as I was going down the road later it dropped off. Ooops.

I was assigned the usual Council Bluffs, Iowa to Carthage, Missouri go-home load but before that I had to give away my trailer to another guy going to the same shipper for the same reason. I eventually hooked up with a different trailer, got it cleaned then drove across the river to exchange it with the loaded one. 44,500 gross weight for the cargo, ugh. I was able to scale it, though so I took off heading south.

Traffic in Kansas City was very busy but I managed to get through eventually. I was going to be an hour or so late on the delivery, but our crack customer service department had phoned ahead and AmeriCold was, um, cool with that. By cool I mean they gave me a door right away then ignored the cargo for two hours, but it is AmeriCold after all.

Finally the box was empty and I departed for home. I’m due back on Sunday but I might push that out another day or two.

Stay tuned.

East, then north

After a number of hours waiting after I dropped my load in Batesville, the satellite unit beeped with new orders: deadhead to Russellville, Arkansas and take a load from there to Ochelata, Oklahoma. After that, grab a load from nearby Pryor, Oklahoma and take it up to Lincoln, Nebraska.

I ran over to Russellville and fueled up, grabbed the load and hightailed it into Oklahoma. This morning I finished that trip at the Walmart DC in Ochelata then moved over to Pryor for the load up to Nebraska. It was from a Pepsi plant and it was almost 5,000 pounds under my limit. Surprising.

Tonight I’m about an hour away from Lincoln and I have to be there no later than 0500 so its another early-early start for me. In theory, I will have a load tomorrow from Council Bluffs down to Carthage, Missouri for the Thanksgiving weekend time off but we will see.

Backcountry Arkansas

Yesterday’s drive down to Batesville, Arkansas included about 250 miles along various windy state highways. About twenty miles from my objective I had to cross a rickety old bridge, one narrow lane each way, over a river that obviously wasn’t designed in the day of modern semis. Nothing scraped, though opposing traffic gave plenty of deference to my truck on the way across.

Among the things that a truck driver does not wish to hear when you pull up to a consignee is “Oh, that doesn’t look good.” The security guard was looking over my paperwork and had to call several places around the large ConAgra plant to find someone who knew what my shipment was and where it was supposed to go. Satisfied, he had me sign in for a badge and gave me directions around the side and back of the plant where I made contact with the receiving folks.

Turns out, the load is about 20 tons of frozen peas. This particular plant makes frozen dinners, mostly of the Banquet variety. I didn’t mention to them that I don’t care for that particular brand personally.

The workers worked at their standard lugubrious pace, as many warehouse workers do, and the pallets came off one by one. I went inside to wait near the shipping office for the paperwork but this didn’t seem to speed up anything. Finally, the paperwork was signed off on and I made myself scarce.

There is a load heading out from this plant up to Rochelle, Illinois that is going on a Hill Bros truck at 0830 this morning (I was unloaded around 0600). I told the workers I very much doubted that would be me, since my original delivery time was between 0400 and 2200 today.

Fuel could be a concern today as well. There was no fuel solution for this trip, as the first half was in Illinois where we avoid fueling and the remainder was along back roads with none of our fueling stops. I picked up 50 gallons in Troy, Illinois anyway to make sure I had enough to get me here with some reserve. I did it that way because I believed I would be sent over to Russellville, Arkansas for my next load. If I have to run back north again I’ll have to go significantly out of route to get back on I-55 to fuel.

226 posts. Halfway there.

This is the 226th post on my Lease Purchase blog, which is the halfway mark to the 452 posts on my old OTRJournal blog. I’ve been here at Hill Bros for about eight months now and I was at CFI before for 16 months so the pace seems steady. Then again, I wasn’t blogging for the first six months or so at CFI. Ah well.

An Eventful Morning

Imagine you get up on a cold Saturday morning just before Thanksgiving. You own a Subway franchise a few counties away from where you live in Des Moines, Iowa and you have given yourself the task of sweeping up the parking lot this morning. You don warm outerwear and warm up your ride, a 1999 Chevy pickup.

It is still dark out at about 0545 and Interstate 80 is lightly traveled. You putter down the right lane, checking your watch, yawning and trying to keep it together while you travel to your business.

Before you know it your right tires have drifted ever so slightly on to the shoulder where there is packed ice masquerading as snow and in the blink of an eye the back of your truck swings wildly to the right, then back hard to the left forcing the front end off the road to the right. The pickup is now skidding completely and you have no control whatsoever.

Since you have just skidded into the ice alongside the road at first this isn’t much of a problem but all too soon your pickup, now angling away from the road almost 90 degrees, catches the first patch of dirt and grass that isn’t frozen and your tires start to bite. Worse, this patch of road runs alongside a steep drop-off of about thirty feet into the fields of some farmer below. Your pickup launches off the road and into the field, yet somehow manages to not tumble until the very end where it ends up on the driver’s side almost perfectly vertical.

It turns out I was minding my business about a quarter mile behind this pickup this morning and dimly saw the vehicle violently whip off the road to the right. I had enough distance to brake safely and come to a stop where he went airborne and saw the pickup on its side about thirty feet below and seventy or eighty feet off the roadway. A quick call to 911 and I fumbled some new D-cell batteries into my good flashlight and I set off to see if anyone survived.

It took a while to make it safely through the tall, icy grass and down the slope to where the wreck lay. Eventually, I made it around to the top of the pickup (the bottom was facing the road) and saw that the lone occupant was standing on his driver’s window, conscious and alert. We talked through his windshield (miraculously unbroken, as was every other window on his pickup, though both mirrors were toast) briefly then he popped open the now-vertical passenger door and boosted himself out. He gave his truck a once-over then followed me up to my truck, which had the virtue of being warm and dry.

Turns out, Jody was off that morning to neaten up the parking lot of his franchise as I described above. We chatted for a while until the state troopers arrived (they were busy, as it turns out) then I bid farewell and rejoined the traffic flow.

Believe it or not, there wasn’t a scratch on him.

A few hundred miles later, I arrived at the Tyson plant in Ottawa, Illinois. I dropped my full trailer there, shuttled an empty down the street to the Petsmart DC then bobtailed in towards Chicago to our drop yard for a load of chicken heading down to Batesville, Arkansas for 0400 Monday morning.

Tonight I find myself at the Pilot truck stop in Bloomington, Illinois. I had some fast food from Wendy’s, a shower, then on impulse I bought a couple Mega Millions tickets. Karma can be a strange thing.

Its Friday already

I really haven’t had much to report since my last post.

This morning I finished the trip out to California, delivering in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It was 12 degrees when I got up and fueled, and didn’t quite make it up to freezing all day long.

The satellite unit went off after a few hours and I headed south to pick up a Tyson load from Sioux City, Nebraska heading to Ottawa, Illinois tomorrow. A double first for that plant: the load was ready about five hours early and it wasn’t loaded so heavy as to put me over the limit. Can’t get better than that.