The next to last and the last load for 2008

This morning began with instructions to head to the small town of Frontenac, Kansas to the Triple-T pet food processing plant for a load. The weather over the past few days has been unusually warm and most of the ice and snow has departed for now.

The loading went fairly quickly and they even had scales at the site so I made sure I was legal before I left.

The run north through Kansas City to Council Bluffs then over to Omaha went smoothly. Along the way I was told to t-call the load at our yard for delivery by a utility driver in the morning, then given a load heading down to Phoenix.

After fueling at our yard and swapping trailers I was on my way again, with a short stop to wash up.

The day ended in York, Nebraska at the crossroads of I-80 and highway 81 that I will take south in the morning to Salina, Kansas then southwest to Tucumcari, New Mexico.

Who would have guessed?

Nope, the Swift plant in Greeley, Colorado still managed to bungle calling me. I got up early the next morning, got the trailer and paperwork and left town.

Eleven hours later I dropped the trailer in our Kansas City, Missouri drop lot for another driver to take to his or her home and spent the night. The next morning, the day before Christmas, I got the go ahead to head home myself.

I’m planning to head back out either Sunday or Monday to wrap up the rest of the year so stay tuned.

“The only thing worse than drinking water from the toilet…”

“… is cheering for Kyle Busch.”

I swear, those were the words I saw on the back of a car I saw this morning. He had a lot of other NASCAR signs, stickers and such back there as well so I’m assuming this message has to do with that sport, but I’m not sure since I’m not a fan.

This load I’m on has two PetSmart stops, both in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It stands to reason that one of the stops has to be first, as the cargo is loaded in the trailer that way. Now, the printouts and seals from the PetSmart Distribution Center showed that I was to be at store A at 0500, then store B at 0700. No problemo. Of course, our own company computer system shows it the other way around, but who would you trust: the guys who loaded the trailer or the people who got an electronic copy of the details?

I arrive at store A a bit early and I get out and chat with the guy who will be doing the unloading. We break the seal, only to discover that the product in the back of the trailer really is intended for the other store, and his six pallets are wayyyy up in front. If it were the other way around he could have temporarily taken off a few pallets, gotten his stuff then put the others back on but no way with almost two dozen. I slam and lock the doors then head out across town to the other PetSmart.

Arrive at the other stop and quickly open the trailer doors and back up to the dock. No point in waiting for someone to break the seal — there is only the broken one in back now from Stop A. The guy at the other store said for them to call if there were any questions, but they were cool. While they efficiently removed twenty pallets from the trailer I spent some time inside checking out the cats in the Adoption Center. Too cute.

Finally, the load is off and it turns out they got shorted a pallet. No big deal, it is noted on the bills and we both sign. I head back outside, move the truck off the dock, seal it up then beat feet back the way I came to store A.

I get backed into their dock and they are waiting for me. There was another driver here earlier that left off a lot of cargo, so they aren’t unhappy that they only got six more pallets from me. They are off in a jiffy and I’m on my way.

That Digby trailer I’m hauling? Orders are to tow it up to Denver and drop it in their yard on the north side. Done.

My new orders are to grab an empty from the ConWay yard in nearby Henderson then head up to My All-Time Favorite Meatpacking Plant (NOT!) in Greeley, Colorado. Only, the trailer I pick up is low on fuel and needs a washout. I quickly head over to the local Pilot to take care of both problems, but there is a backlog of probably 20 rigs trying to get through the single-bay Blue Beacon wash there. The only other truck wash in town is over at the Sapp Bros truck stop a few miles away, but drivers confirm that it is shut down due to being out of water for one reason or another. Just great.

I head north about 15 miles on I-76 to a small Tomahawk truck stop that has a kind of rinky-dink truck wash bay at the end and wouldn’t you know it, there is a short line. An hour or so later the trailer is clean and I’m in Greeley, dropping off the trailer at the plant and being placed on their dreaded “will call” list. This means you leave them your name and cell phone number and, in theory, they “will call” you.

Who knows, it might actually work this time.

The First ‘Ho I’ve Picked Up

It is time to fess up. I’ve been a truck driver for over two years now and I have never engaged the services of any of the “commercial entertainment” available at some places we park.

This isn’t to say I haven’t been propositioned on occasion, either in person or over the CB.

Today I ran down to Phoenix, Arizona and dropped my loaded trailer at the PetSmart DC as planned. When I finished with the paperwork and satellite unit dance, it beeped again with the specifics for my next load, the preplan for Colorado.

I’m glad I scrolled down for the notes at the very bottom of the dispatch message or I would have missed it: we’re using someone else’s trailer for this load. The company in question is called Digby.

Now, Digby owns or is part of another company called Navajo (NAV-A-HO) so when I say I’ve picked up a ‘Ho that is what I meant. What were you thinking?

Oddly enough, my truck is just about the perfect truck to do such dirty work. It is plain white with the smallest-available company decals on the side so if you were to glance at my rig it would look like a Digby/Navajo setup. Hopefully I can stealth into Colorado past the eagle-eyed DOT officers.

Two other happenings to report: a rock has left a second small crack in my windshield, this one towards the drivers side. More of a chip, really, but something I could get hassled over.

Second, my dang locking fuel caps froze shut a few days ago! I went in to fuel at the Flying J in Peculiar, Missouri only to find that on one the key wouldn’t even go in and on the other side it would go in but not turn (which I leaned after I bent the crap out of said key). It is close to zero degrees and I need a nearby source of warm liquid to unfreeze the caps so I can fuel and continue down the road… Before you get any more incorrect notions in your head, I went inside the cab of my truck and used my microwave to nuke some bottled water then used that to unfreeze both sides.

A New Coat of Dirt

It took all of one day, but most of my truck is again coated with dirt, sand, salt and whatever other crap they are putting down on the roads nowadays. This was all up in Nebraska and Kansas, as my drive today was on nice clear roads with temps mostly above freezing.

I departed Dodge City, Kansas just before daybreak and ended the day in Gallup, New Mexico with one stop for a power nap and one fueling stop. I was a bit hungry and the fridge is mostly empty, so I went in for an Arby’s Crispy Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich and some Potato Bites. Somehow the order got screwed up twice.

There were all these electronic billboards here in New Mexico touting a “Blizzard” of DUI/DWI enforcement, officers around every bush, etc. They must be avoiding my part of the state since I only saw two or three in more than 300 miles. Most of these holiday heavy enforcement notices are baloney, anyways, in my book.

I actually got a Shiny New Preplan for a change! I expected that this load I’m dropping at the PetSmart DC in Phoenix would be backed up with a store load out, and I was right. Up to Colorado Springs, Colorado for Monday morning with two stores in the same city (a first, for me). Since I am planned to be home by Wednesday, there will probably be a load out to Omaha, then one from Council Bluffs down to Carthage as there have been so many other times.

The House on the Ass-Edge of Civilization

I spent yesterday at the ThermoKing and Volvo dealers getting various parts of my truck and APU serviced, fixed, repaired, greased, examined, spindled and/or mutilated. My complaint list exhausted, the fine folks at the Volvo place even pointed out an indoor wash bay down at the end of their facility that I was welcome to use. It even included a heated power sprayer! Needless to say, I spent about 15 minutes getting the hang of it and washing off most of the salt, sand and other road grit off of my truck.

This morning I met with Ross C., head of operations to empty my spleen over that trip back on December 1st. The one where I had to wait eight hours at the shipper then another twelve at the consignee. Apparently, since no one called them about detention while I was at the shipper we (or should I say, I) am entitled to squat. We went over the particulars and he has sent out some feelers to others in our organization to see if there isn’t something can be done, as they say in the south.

I’m glad I went in to talk to dispatch and the planners, as my dispatcher had me off until tomorrow which would have been nice for the laziness factor but not so nice for the paycheck.

Soon after yacking with the locals at HQ a trip plan was sent out over the satellite. The instructions to get to the shipper were telling: (paraphrased) “Go west along a state highway from Omaha about 100 miles. Turn left down a gravel road. Go 6-7 miles and the shipper will be on the left.”

Making things ever-so-much-more interesting, the weather report for today is grave. A frosty ice storm is due to blanket much of the region starting in the mid-to-late afternoon. I departed Omaha as soon as I could grab an empty trailer.

The directions were actually pretty accurate, and a few hours later I arrived at a place I describe as The House on the Ass-Edge of Civilization:

I’m pretty sure if you were to follow that road around the bend there you would fall off the face of the planet or something. We’re talking the serious boonies here.

As is so often the case with these ad-hoc business locations, the dock situation borders on the ridiculous. Basically, you have to make a left turn into the property, thread your way between (live) power poles, avoid missing a shack on one side and a house on the other, then pivot backward around a stack of pallets obstructing your view to the dock while missing the one pole that other drivers haven’t seemed to be able to miss. To wit:

The house you see in the middle of the picture behind the trees has been converted into the office for this place. It is very homey, with a few cats and dogs underfoot.

Here’s a shot towards the dock (see how clean my truck looks?) and the poorly placed power pole:

It was 17 degrees when I arrived and there were snow and ice flurries flitting about when I left, plus a lot of fog. I boogied as fast as I safely could to the south to try to stay out of the worst part of the storm, and mostly succeeded. As I headed south into Kansas the temps slowly started to creep up until I arrived in Dodge City, Kansas and a balmy 42 degrees.

This load is due any time Saturday in Phoenix, Arizona. If I knock out 600-650 miles tomorrow I should be able to roll into Phoenix noonish or so with some hours left over to head out to the next load with.