Crack: Its Not So Bad

A crack in my windshield, I mean.

I heard a PING! sound a few days ago and didn’t notice anything at the time but this morning I was glancing around as I was scratching and noticed a small crack over on the passenger side. First one in almost six months on the road. When I started driving I went through three windshields in the first three months so this is an improvement.

After some consultation with my dispatcher yesterday I agreed to a preplan from Carson, California running out to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for Friday. The timing is a bit tight but three days of good running will get me into the right neighborhood.

Today I managed to get to Flagstaff, Arizona before shutting down. I had another hour or so on my clock to run but I pooped out.

The fuel schedule for this run assumed I would be taking this light (about 15,000 pound) load over the Rockies in Utah and Wyoming. Oh hell no, I said. I’m going back the way I came out to California.

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The path to California

That is the route I traveled out to California the past three days. This morning I drove to Winslow, Arizona to fuel then a few miles away to the local Super Wal-Mart to top off my other supplies. Then onward to Arizona where I got the truck washed, then on to the Los Angeles area to await my delivery in the morning.

I saw a detachment of army or marine engineers in a convoy out in the California desert this afternoon. Probably having to do with Fort Irwin.

I also managed not to hit anything today, so that is one in the bank. Got to start somewhere.

Oh deer

Well, I’ve finally struck a non-flying animal with my truck.

This morning I was driving along a lonely stretch of state highway, almost to the Texas / New Mexico border when a deer bolted from the undergrowth alongside the road. I had enough time to hit the brakes hard enough to take some velocity off but not risk skidding and swerved somewhat to try to give the creature a chance to get out of the way. Nothing doing, as it plowed directly into the middle of my bumper as we met.

My immediate concern was that no one else get involved with the accident but thankfully the one vehicle in sight was a truck behind me with enough distance that it wasn’t a concern. I felt a muted “thump”, then noticed the deer ricocheting away and to the right, on its left side with its feet splayed out towards me. My momentum carried me past the impact site forty or fifty feet but I saw the deer get back up from where it was bumped off to the side of the road and bolt away. Thankfully it didn’t manage to roll under the truck and get squished.

I’m guessing it wasn’t hurt seriously, but if anyone bags it this winter and sees the imprint of my license plate on its haunch I would appreciate partial credit.

I pulled over to the meager shoulder and waited until it was safe to get out and assess the damage. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a scratch on my truck and I popped the hood to make sure nothing was leaking, the fan shroud wasn’t damaged, etc. The damage appears to have been limited to the bumps and bruises visited upon the critter.

Anyway, I finished my driving day in Gallup, New Mexico with a full day’s drive ahead of me to the lovely hell-blasted Los Angeles area for tomorrow. We’ll see what the smoke situation is up close.

“So, how’s that load to California coming?”

I occasionally rattle my dispatcher’s cage asking when I can get another load out to California. One thing I really, really miss about CFI were the mix of short and long loads. Longer loads put me more in control of the timing, my schedule, when I can take breaks and the like whereas shorter loads put the dispatcher and planner more in charge of my day.

Lo and behold, the satellite unit beeped and I got a trip from nearby Lincoln, Nebraska to Mira Loma, California (a suburb of Los Angeles). I was told to grab an empty van — always a sign of a heavy load in my future — but it turns out the only empties we had were for other parts of the Hill Bros organization and couldn’t go on the trip. Thus, the orders came for me to just bobtail there and grab the pre-loaded trailer. No problemo.

Turns out this is a load of corn products coming from an Archer Daniels Midlandson facility and going to Nabisco. Almost all raw material loads that I’ve seen have been designed to use up all available weight the trailer can take, and this was no exception. Fortunately, van trailers are lighter than reefers so my overall weight wasn’t too bad. The trailer is a very old one, however, with spring suspension instead of air bags. This makes the ride up front a lot bouncier and takes just a smidge of pleasure out of this nice long run. But oh well.

I boogied down the road and eventually came to rest in Dodge City, Kansas. The wind was pretty fierce today and my fuel economy suffered.

I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post that I missed one of the most incredible sunsets EVER. There was a thick layer of clouds stretching from horizon to horizon with a small band of blue sky to the extreme west. When the sun set behind the horizon, the last rays were bouncing up against the underside of the cloud layer and since red is the longest color wavelength (in visible light) it looked like the sky was afire. Plus, there were lots of cloud wisps and pockets of rain coming down that almost looked like flames dancing up to reach the clouds. I took the first exit I could but before I was parked and able to grab my camera the show was over.

Sucks to be me sometimes.

Back to Omaha

Today’s trip included a stretch of several hundred miles of the Badlands in South Dakota. Interesting place… unfortunately I was a bit too busy driving to take pictures of the scenery. Suffice it to say that the population was sparse and the road narrow and curvy.

After 400 miles I was at Lexington, Nebraska and traded my empty trailer for a full one heading to Chicago. Since it had to be there sooner than I could legally drive my dispatcher arranged a t-call in Omaha. I had just enough time to make it there before running out of hours for the day and another driver soon had the paperwork and trailer and left to run the load the rest of the way overnight.

Putt putt putt

These were the sounds my engine was making at various times today. See, yesterday I had stopped off at our Omaha HQ to get a PM taken care of (new oil and fuel filters, various things greased, etc). I requested a 1630 time at the shop and a message came back saying that was my appointment time.

I rolled in around 1545 and took my trailer through the Safety Lane then off to the parking lot to drop. Upon speaking with the shop folks, I find out there are four or five other trucks in front of mine with PMs due so it will be a while. Finally, around 2130 or so I get a knock on my cab door to tell me its my turn but by that point I was so tired I had to turn them down and get enough rest to handle the rest of the trip in the morning. By morning I mean I had to be up and running at 0330 hours, which I did.

By 0430 hours my engine was sputtering due to the fuel filters slowly clogging up. I had originally intended to run the last leg of the trip at 65 MPH to give myself about 45 minutes extra time to get to the destination but I just couldn’t get the fuel to flow that fast. So, I puttered along at 60 instead but still had problem climbing some hills. Thankfully, most of South Dakota is relatively flat.

I was very worried about arriving late and informed my dispatcher… but then I ran across a sign that said I was entering the Mountain Time Zone so I gained an hour and it wasn’t a problem. Wish I had known that when I started the trip (our system doesn’t keep track of such niceties).

Anyhow, the parking lot of the PetSmart in Rapid City, South Dakota is challenging but I eventually got that sorted out. Finished up there and drove a couple miles to the local Bosselman Pilot and had them take care of the PM. Such is the life.

Tomorrow I run back south to Lexington, Nebraska and the Tyson plant I picked up at last week. About 400 miles deadhead; always nice.

Boo, Hiss on the Ottawa, Illinois Wal-Mart

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent the night at the Wal-Mart in Ottawa, Illinois, just down the street from the PetSmart DC I go to frequently. This morning I got up, stretched and scratched (as mandated by laws governing all truck drivers) then went inside to get some veggies, frozen foods and other odds and ends. I get back to my truck and some employee type has taped a message to my door telling me I’m persona non grata now and my truck needs to vanish soon or be towed. There are normally six to ten trucks parked at the far end of this lot, well out of the way of “regular” customers but apparently we’re the bad guys.

Thanks a pantload, Ottawa Wal-Mart management. Ptui!